According to the National Golf Foundation, the odds of an amateur golfer hitting a hole in one are 12,600 to 1. The odds of what 68-year-old Bill Hilsheimer of Nokomis accomplished could short-circuit a calculator.
His most recent was last week at the 157-yard, par 3 13th hole at the Bird Bay Executive Golf Course in Venice. In January, he aced a 157-yard hole at the Gulf Gate course in Sarasota and in September, he had another ace on a 105-yard hole on a course in Ohio.
Not bad for a player who lost most of his right hand 59 years ago when he was run over by a train in Columbus, Ohio. Hilsheimer, who has a 15 handicap, doesn't use his right arm when he swings.
Robby Robertson, the owner-manager of Bird Bay, was fertilizing the 13th tee when Hilsheimer hit his most recent ace.
'It's not easy to even hit the green on that hole,' Robertson said. 'I've never seen anything like what Bill has done.
Hilsheimer's injury occurred when he and friends were scurrying home after playing on a river bank. As Hilsheimer ran between railroad cars, the train jerked as it started and he fell over the coupling. The wheel ran over his hand, pinning him on the rail.
Hilsheimer's right hand was cut almost in half. He is missing most of the thumb and first two fingers, as well as much of the palm.
'It could have been worse; it could have been my head,' he said.
Despite the accident, Hilsheimer played football, basketball and baseball in high school, winning 13 letters and becoming an all-state linebacker. He took up golf at 16.
'No one ever told me I couldn't do it,' he said. 'I'd like to think I'm an inspiration for people. They should say, 'If that guy can do it, anybody can do it.''
Hilsheimer retired to Florida in 1996 after working 35 years as a photo engraver for the Akron Beacon-Journal newspaper. He and his wife, Dorothy, raised six children. 'I never had much time to play golf,' he said. 'Now, I'm playing four or five times a week.'
The holes-in-one were the first of his career.
'I waited 50 years to get one. Now, they seem to be coming in bunches,' Hilsheimer said. 'The first one, I was playing with my father-in-law on his 94th birthday party, so it was really special.'
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.