HUTCHINSON, Kansas -- After Kent, Keaton and Kalen Hilst teed off on the par-3, 128-yard fourth hole at Cottonwood Hills on Wednesday, August 19, Kalen rolled his eyes at his dad and big brother and gave them a stern look.
Facetiously, he told them something along the lines of, "I really don't like you guys very much."
Poor Kalen had hit his shot to around 25-feet from the pin. He'd eventually make an easy, ho-hum par.
But Kalen was the man in the middle of history. He was sandwiched in between an astronomic feat, a one-in-many-millions occurrence. Right before his shot, his older brother, Keaton, made his first career hole-in-one. Immediately following his shot, his dad, Kent, made his second career ace.
"I hit it about 25 feet away," Kalen said. "But found out afterwards I was just taking the boring and conservative approach. I kind of joked with them after they both went in that I was the only one who had to pull the putter out of the bag."
Having a father and son each hit an ace on the same hole a minute from each other may never happen again in this lifetime. Plus, another family member of the group playing between the two shots may never be topped. Certainly, it's far-fetched to think the family matriarch will catch something like this on camera again the way Debbie Hilst documented it.
Lots of factors were perfectly placed together to make this one-in-many millions occurrence even more special. The trio had never played at Cottonwood Hills together. Below is the oral history of the event through the lens of the Hilst family and others who were involved.
Usually the Hilst clan plays their home course, Prairie Dunes. But for some reason, they got the itch to try out the recently re-opened Cottonwood Hills. Keaton's job, which moved him to Kansas City, brought him to Hutchinson more frequently this summer. The day after this gorgeous Wednesday afternoon, Kalen was set to go back to start his sophomore year in Lawrence at the University of Kansas.
Kent: "Normally we'd play at Prairie Dunes. But my son's birthday, Keaton's birthday, was six days before that. I said 'you want to go out to Cottonwood Hills and do something different for your birthday?' or whatever. He said 'yeah, that sounds like fun.' So that was the first time we've been out there since they reopened. Kalen I don't think had ever played there and Keaton and I had maybe played there once or twice when it was open before. It was a different choice. Apparently a wise choice."
Kalen: "We usually just play Prairie Dunes and I left for college on Thursday and I wanted to golf with them my last day because my brother was in town. I actually recommended Sand Creek Station in Newton but my dad knew I had never played Cottonwood before and said it would be something different."
Debbie isn't a golfer. Yet she loves to follow along and spend time with her family. She wanted to try out her new camera that has enhanced video capabilities. She has a hobby for filming and capturing her family's most cherished memories. Thus, with an extra spot in a cart readily available, the stars aligned for mom to come and witness history. And film nearly every shot of the round to boot.
Kent: "She's really into photography and videos. She's done this numerous times. Certainly not close to all the time, but it's not an unusual thing for her to do. She'd never been out there. Since there was three of us, we were going to have two carts, we were like 'come along.' "
Debbie: "Keaton was home, Kalen was going to school the next day at KU, so I thought I would go out with the guys. I don't go every time because sometimes if they golf with other people, they don't want me around, you know. That day, I had never been to Cottonwood Hills. I had a new camera where you can film and you can pick off pictures. It's really the first time I've used it at all."
Yet, Debbie almost didn't tag along. Her parents were in town and she wanted to be a great host. Luckily, they left right before a 3:40 p.m. tee time and understood she was anxious to spend some time with her boys and husband. Another domino fell perfectly into place.
Debbie: "No, I was really close to staying home because I didn't want to be rude, you know. Anyway, I guess it all worked out for the best because all of the picture-taking I have done and video, I would have been excited for them, but I would have been like 'oh, man, I missed the Kodak moment.' "
Kalen: "They left five minutes before we did so it ended up working out so she could come."
After three holes, none of the Hilsts were playing particularly well. But the old adage that one shot can change everything fully came into fruition when they entered the short, par-3 fourth. The pin was not placed at too treacherous of a location, toward the front of a relatively flat, 33-yard deep green on the course's signature hole. It played 128 yards and the wind was especially benign for Kansas standards. Keaton, a former low-handicapper who tries to play one round every few weeks, teed off from the green tees first and pulled out a gap wedge, about 52 degrees of loft, at 4:29 p.m.
Keaton: "I'd gotten off to a really bad start, so I wasn't really super happy."
Kent: "Keaton's shot was just beautiful. It was high, towering at the pin the whole time."
Keaton: "I just hit a good one that was going right toward the flag the whole time. It kind of bounced right beside it and snuck back in. It was kind of a shock I guess... It was high, like I said, it bounced about three inches right of the hole, bounced past a little bit and spun back in."
Kalen: "He was pretty calm, I think he was more shocked than anything because he didn't really celebrate until after my shot, basically."
Kent: "He's a pretty laid back individual, but you could tell he was pretty thrilled that he had done this."
Keaton: "I just dropped my club. Raised my arms. I didn't really know how to react."
Kalen: "My brother made his and my dad was more excited than he was. I was probably more excited than he was too."
Like every shot when she's in attendance, Debbie was filming. However, while the ball was coming down, she pressed the off button.
Debbie: "I got behind him so I could see the flag, so I tried to aim. Kalen was in the right. Kalen came over to tee up, so I shut the camera off and I heard Kent yelling 'it went in, it went in.' So I saw it real quick so I got that excitement."
Kalen: "When he hit, I knew it looked good but I went and teed up my ball right after he had hit and we watched it back on film and I blocked it in from the camera so you can't see my brother's go in. My brother was joking with me, 'how could you do that?' "
Debbie: "My little one got in momma's way. I don't yell at them when they're golfing. I don't say 'hey get out of my way.' You know I have so much golf (footage) that I'd never dreamed they'd go in. So sometimes I shut the camera off."
But she got the aftermath. And now realized how to shoot the next shots. Kalen went next. He only hit a green in regulation.
Keaton (laughing): "All he did was hit to about 20 feet and make par, so he's kind of a bum."
After Kalen's shot, Kent teed up at 4:30 p.m. He said both his sons get an assist for his second career ace.
Kent: "The reality of it is I hit last, and I saw what my sons hit and I had a 9-iron in my hand and went back and switched it to a pitching wedge after I saw what they did. Had I hit first, I would not of had a hole-in-one. Maybe I would have still made it, but I would have had to mishit a 9-iron. I mean I hit my shot really, really well."
Going into his shot, Kent, a low-handicapper who usually plays once or twice a week, didn't have the faintest idea history would repeat itself a minute later. Keaton actually wasn't on the tee box for his dad's ace because he wandered down by the cart to get something.
Kent: "I wasn't thinking obviously about 'hey, let's put one in on top.' I don't know if I was thinking about that or not...I hit a really good shot. It was right on line the whole time. It landed in front of the hole, about 10 feet short and bounced on in the hole. I think as I recall I yelled, 'it's in' and just started laughing. Just because what are the chances of this happening?"
Debbie: "Then when Kent golfed, he was the only one in the picture. I got him and I could see the flag. So I filmed all the way through. You can see his go in. He went crazy."
Kent: "(Keaton) thought I was just joking around. It was pretty surreal. I don't know if that was a plus for him or if I took some of his limelight away. But I think it will be a more memorable thing when you have two of them, especially a father-son combination. It's pretty cool."
Keaton: "I was down there and heard him screaming. He said something like 'I did it too.' I thought he was playing a little joke, but then it seemed pretty legit. I wasn't 100 percent sure until I saw two balls in the hole, though."
Kent: "I had a joke with him. I told him for about two minutes you had the same number of career hole-in-ones as I did...I've doubled the number of hole-in-ones I've seen on that hole."
Keaton: "I tied him for 30 seconds, but I guess he had enough of that. He took the lead again."
Kent: "I had only done it once in my life, here I do it immediately after he does it, you know this is just freakish."
It's not particularly easy to keep focus after an occurrence like this unfolds. The rest of the round, the magnificence of the moment started to sink in.
Kent: "I cannot say the golf was brilliant after we were finished. We didn't really care too much what the score added up to once it was done."
Keaton: "Right after that I sent about four or five group texts about it. No one believed me. I posted on Facebook and everybody's commenting 'oh yeah right,' that sort of thing. I wouldn't believe anyone who told me it. Can't really blame them I guess."
Kalen: "I knew when it happened that the odds were very much stacked against us. But I didn't know exactly how ridiculous it was until my uncle Rusty being the math genius that he is came up with the million odds, then it kind of hit how rare that is."
Keaton: "Just crazy, and it's never going to happen again. Kind of surreal at first, but it kind of sunk in as the day went on and it didn't really matter what anybody shot. It was fun."
Debbie was glad her passion for photographing and videotaping her kids' big moments over the years led to capturing this moment. Plus, Kent played a Titleist 8. Keaton used a No. 1 ball. Kent was the eighth-born child while Keaton was the oldest of his siblings.
Debbie: "I have taken pictures since when Keaton (was born). I didn't really take too many (before), but when he was born I went kind of nuts you might say. I got into it then."
At the turn, news came into the clubhouse. Cottonwood Hills' Justin Alldritt said everyone was aghast. It was the perfect cherry on top to a pleasant first summer after reopening.
Alldritt: "That's when everyone in the clubhouse looked up and was like, 'woah, never heard of that happening before.' "
The staff relayed the news to course pro Matt Seitz, a friend of the Hilst's. He was giddy and off site.
Seitz: "I was just as happy can be for the family. I actually felt a little bad for Kalen because he was playing too and he got locked out. The poor guy just can't make a hole-in-one to keep up with his dad and big brother. It's a good golfing family, and I was just happy for them. It's good to see."
Years ago, two players in Hesston aced the same hole in a match. Playing a PGA Midwest Section tournament in Kansas City over a decade ago, Seitz, who's been a pro for over three decades, remembers two pros acing the same hole a group ahead of him. But a father and son on the same hole? This is something you don't see every decade.
Seitz: "As we all know, hole-in-ones, the odds are astronomical. Same group even more so and then you have a father-son do it on top of that, it's probably easier to get struck by lightning than to have that happen. As far as father-son happening on the same hole, I've never heard of that happening."
Keaton: "Last couple days I've tried to Google anywhere else it's happened before. I couldn't really find any. It's pretty nuts."
Seitz has five career aces. So does Rusty Hilst. Rusty, Kent's older brother, picked up his most recent on April 25th on No. 4 at Prairie Dunes. He had a 33-year lapse between aces. Rusty is a fixture in the Kansas golf community. He's seen and heard it all. But this was something new.
Rusty: "I'd say I've been involved in helping run golf tournaments for the Kansas Golf Association for 40 years. I've never seen two hole-in-ones in the same group. Yeah, this was certainly one of the rarest things I've ever seen or heard of. It's a fun occurrence."
This article was written by Tommy Dahlk from The Hutchinson News, Kan. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
Experts on the business and game of golf. The best coaching tips and latest golf news delivered straight to you. Sign Up to get the latest.