Elks safeties coach Kohler Jr. records a hole-in-one on par 4 hole at Elks QB Club Golf Tourney

by Jake Andersen

Sports Reporter

The 28th annual Elks Quarterback Club Golf Tournament is one Danny Kohler Jr. won’t soon forget.

Kohler Jr., who graduated from Elk River in 2003 and is entering his 10th season as Elks safeties coach, did what a majority of golfers won’t ever accomplish in their lifetime: shoot a hole-in-one.

And making it even more impressive was the fact that he did it on hole 13 at the Elk River Golf Club — a par 4 that dog legs out to the right and is measured at 290 yards from the tee box to the hole.

“It’s hands down one of the best memories I’ll have in sports,” Kohler Jr. said about his likely once-in-a-lifetime feat.

Kohler Jr. was out with his father- and brother-in-law, along with two of his closest friends, who teamed up for the five-man scramble tournament on August 2 in support of the Elk River football team. The day hadn’t quite gone to plan for the fivesome, as they were well behind the head of the pack going into hole 13 — their 17th hole of the day after starting out on hole 15.

With nothing to lose, Kohler Jr. figured he’d attempt to reach the green, requiring him to drive the ball over a few trees to the right of the fairway for a direct path to the hole. It was a shot he had executed before in his 20 years of golfing, and he felt confident he had done it again after putting his best swing of the day on the ball.

He just didn’t realize how good it really was.

“When I hit the drive, I didn’t even watch it land. I knew I hit it well. I looked at my teammates and said that’s on the green,” Kohler Jr. said.

Moments later, he discovered how good it was. Yet, it took a thorough search to find out.

After pulling up to an empty green, Kohler Jr. had his father-in-law drive their cart around the back side of the green to see if his ball had rolled past it. No ball.

He asked his buddies in the other cart if they had seen it while driving up the right side of the green. They didn’t.

Finally, Kohler Jr. went to look in the rough on the front side of the green before one of the guys suggested he check the hole. He thought to himself ‘Why not?’ and walked over to check it out. Lo and behold rested his Calloway ball.

He could hardly believe it.

“I was really just in disbelief until I started taking the ball out of the hole,” Kohler Jr. said. “Then, I just kept saying, ‘Did that really just happen?’”

Reality soon sunk in, though, when his teammates realized the true significance of his accomplishment.

Golfing tradition dictates that anyone who makes a hole-in-one should buy drinks afterward. And not just for their playing group, but for everyone present.

As a result, Kohler Jr. bought a keg for everyone of age at the tournament. There were 105 total golfers.

“I think they were more happy that their drinks were on me after we finished than that we just got a -3 in one hole. At that point, we weren’t going to win it, as we couldn’t put a putt in all day,” Kohler Jr. said about his teammates’ reaction to his hole-in-one, noting they finished at -11 on the day.

One of the benefactors of Kohler Jr.’s hole-in-one was Elks head coach Steve Hamilton, who believes this was the first hole-in-one in his nine years with the program. Over the history of the tournament, Elk River Director of Football Operations Marvin Johnson said he believes there’s only been one other hole-in-one.

Hamilton said that the fact that one of their coaches did it was “really cool” and just added to another successful tournament that raised support and excitement for Team 128.

“It’s always a great way to end the summer. It’s always fun to get together with all the alumni, past coaches and more,” Hamilton said. “It’s a fun time because we are a week away (from the start of the season) and the week prior is always a chance to get away with the family one last time before we get started. ... We had a great offseason and are excited about the team we have.”

Kohler Jr. echoed much of the same, praising the work of tournament director Phil Johnson, Marvin Johnson and the Elks QB Club for putting on another fun-filled event. The tournament was ultimately won by a group featuring retired NHL player and former Elk Paul Martin, who teamed with Matt Smerdon, Tyler Grupa, Matt Johnson and Dave Trushenski to shoot a -19.

“I always make sure I get off work for this day as it’s my two favorite things: football and golf,” said Kohler Jr., who works as an operation manager at Outdoor and More in Long Lake. “I think Phil Johnson and Marvin Johnson and every one that put the event together does a great job; a lot of work goes into six to eight hours of fun.”

And while he came away from the tournament with one of his top sporting moments, he wouldn’t go as far as to say it was his top one, noting watching his two boys play sports as well as being a part of Team 125’s journey to a state championship are right up there. He added the time and effort they put into winning a state championship makes it all the more special and he’s excited to get started with Team 128, as they look toward accomplishing that same end goal.

“We have such a hardworking group coming through that we can’t wait to see what they can bring to the football field this coming year. They have spent a lot of time getting themselves ready for this time of the year and I can’t wait to get coaching them,” he said.

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