Paige McLean knew she hit a good shot, but she had had no idea it would be perfect
Forget, for a moment, the result, the historic shot that it turned into Tuesday at the Class 4A District 4 girls golf tournament.
All Paige McLean wanted to do was make good contact, put the ball on the green, and hope to have a birdie putt.
“I took a light swing. It was a really good hit,” McLean said. ‘Wow, that’s going to be my best iron hit of the day.’ I’ve never hit the ball that good.”
She looked up to find her ball in flight.
“That was amazing. Even if it isn’t close to the hole, that was an amazing shot. I’ll take that any day,” McLean recalled.
Then the ball landed.
“I was like, ‘Oh, it’s going to be about three feet from the hole. I’ll putt it in and get a birdie. I was super excited about that.”
The ball had not stopped, though.
“Then it kept rolling,” McLean said.
“Oh. My. Gosh.”
She said she heard the ball hit the pin. Then no one could see the ball.
“I dropped my club and I just stood there, awestruck,” McLean said.
Her playing partners were in disbelief, as well.
“They were like, ‘Did that just happen?’ I was like, ‘I think so.’”
Oh, it happened.
Paige McLean, a junior from Union High School, made the first hole-in-one in the tournament’s history on Tuesday.
This is not a story of a district champion. Jacinda Lee of Camas outdueled Jade Gruher of Union for the title on Tuesday.
McLean is a different kind of champion. An athlete relatively new to her sport, McLean is someone who just wanted to make varsity this year, someone who fell for the game during the pandemic, and someone who just wants to keep improving.
On Tuesday, for one hole, she had the best score in the region, the best score in the state. For one hole, she was perfect.
Just call her Ace McLean.
Paige started playing the sport soon after the pandemic. Her father and sister play a lot, and she wanted to join them. Last school year, during the abbreviated sports season, she joined the Union program, playing junior varsity.
She caught the fever for the game, then started taking lessons. Her goal was to make varsity this season. She did, but she also hit what she described as a “rough patch” early in the season. By district, she improved enough to be entered in the tournament as an individual. She was still representing Union, but her rounds would not count toward the overall team scores.
The first day, she fired a 126. She said that was average, at best. Her goal for the second day was to get better than 120, to earn a trip to bi-district. McLean ended up with a 118 and did, indeed, extend her season by at least another week, qualifying for bi-district.
But seriously, she would not be getting the spotlight had she recorded a 119.
That hole-in-one made all the difference. You could say she has been in a good mood ever since.
“If you hit a good shot, you’re good for another four holes. You hit a hole-in-one? You’re good for the rest of the week. Honestly, I could top the ball and it could go 2 feet, and I’d still be ecstatic. It’s just crazy.
“I was just over-the-moon ecstatic. It made my whole day, and it made my whole day after. I got to school and everyone’s coming up to me.”
Tournament rules do not allow players to use their phones. But after that shot, on the third hole at Three Rivers Golf Course in Kelso, McLean had to ask for an exception. She found a rules official who agreed. She could take a picture of the ball in the hole.
She still had to wait to tell family and friends.
“The second I finished (the round), I was calling my family,” McLean said. “‘Dad, guess what?’”
Alan McLean did not believe it at first, Paige said. Then she sent him a picture of the scorecard.
“My dad has been playing golf for 37 years. He’s never hit a hole-in-one. For me to hit a hole-in-one and to make it at districts, that’s just insane to me,” Paige said.
Not everything went perfect on Tuesday for Paige McLean. Don’t ask her to show you the ball. It’s gone.
Athletes have superstitions, after all. She could have put that ball in her pocket for a keepsake. Instead, she decided she had to keep playing with that ball. It was lucky, right? Well for a few holes, it remained a lucky charm.
On the ninth hole, though, that golf ball got the proverbial burial at sea, finding a watery grave.
“You have to be kidding me,” she said. “I got a picture of it, though. At least I have that.”
And she has a memory that will last a lifetime.
“Only been playing for two years. Never in a million years did I think I was going to hit a hole-in-one in districts,” McLean said. “I’ve had a couple birdies in my life, but nothing felt as good as that hole-in-one felt.”