Walter Hope will never forget that tee shot on No. 17 at the Standard Club last month. It couldn’t have occurred at a more important moment. At the same time, it’s also the closest he’s been to a hole-in-one.
“There was lots of pressure at that point,” said Hope, of Gainesville.
Hitting off the tee from 192 yards away, Hope, 57, read the wind perfectly with a shot that landed 10 feet in front of the hole and rolled to within inches of the cup. Hope made the right call off the tee. He grabbed his 5-hybrid iron for the downhill shot, and was able to avoid the pond in front of the green and bunker in the back.
“That’s the signature hole of that course,” Hope added.
With that amazing shot, Hope, an even-par golfer, pulled away for a 2 and 1 win over his opponent, Ken Walters, to earn the Georgia Senior Match Play Championship on May 11 in Johns Creek. Hope, who battled back from behind in all four match-play events during the four-day event, is also ranked as the top senior amateur in the state.
Not bad for a golfer that didn’t even pick up a club until he was in his early 40s.
“Winning there was a pretty big deal for me,” said Hope. “I was playing against the top 93 senior amateurs from all over the state.”
Even though Hope doesn’t hit the ball a mile off the tee, he tries to gain an edge with his accuracy. While it isn’t the flashiest style of golf, he knows it is difficult for the opponent to watch him make pars continuously.
“He might only hit 240 yards off the tee, but he’s deadly accurate,” said Greg Lee, the head golf professional at Chicopee Woods Golf Course. “He’s got a great short game, probably one of the best I’ve ever seen in an amateur golfer.”
That attention to detail is why Hope was able to survive the grind of four consecutive days playing 18 holes of single-elimination match play. He says that working in the home renovation industry makes playing that much golf not as physically grueling.
In the finals, Walters took the lead with a birdie on No. 13 to go 1 up. However, Hope rattled off wins on two of the next three holes, taking a 1-up advantage to the crucial No. 17.
Walters’ tee shot on No. 17 was also strong, coming to rest just 10-12 feet from the cup. However, his own birdie putt missed by just millimeters, according to Hope.
Hope says that all credit for his golf ability traces back to the hours of work that Lee and Chicopee Woods director of golf Jim Arendt have poured into his game. Over the years since Hope picked up the clubs, Lee says they’ve worked together for “hundreds of hours.”
Even though Hope got a late start playing golf, he was a 10 handicap by the time he was 48. Lee says that Hope has put in the hours to get to this level of the game.
“He’s playing at a level that only the top 1/10 of 1 percent play,” Lee added. “I’m super proud of him.”
And Hope never imagined that he would ever win, much less play in tournaments when he was brought out to the driving range by his friend Gary Grogan the first time. That first trip wasn’t very successful.
“I didn’t even hit the driving range with the ball,” Hope added.
However, he quickly felt that the competitive juices were flowing and he wanted to learn to play. Hope was a high school athlete at the old Forsyth County High, having played football, soccer and competed in track and field.
More importantly, he learned he liked golf a lot.
“The biggest thing is that I had great instruction at Chicopee Woods,” said Hope.
Hope routinely plays other tournaments at courses around the area. His goal now is to carry the Senior State Amateur.