As he neared the end of his round at Stonewall Golf Club on a Wednesday afternoon last month, Colin Dunn asked a friend to take a photo of him in front a 2015 BMW 428i convertible that was parked at the 17th tee. The car was the prize for the first person to shoot a hole-in-one on the 17th hole at the annual fundraiser for a District charity called Winners Lacrosse.
Colin thought it would be funny to text the image to his wife, Laurie, along with the message that he’d won the car. Ha-ha!
Two weeks earlier, Matt Breslin, executive director of Winners Lacrosse, had signed a contract with a Reno, Nev., insurance company called Hole in One International. He’d paid $1,000 so that if someone did happen to ace the 17th hole, his nonprofit wouldn’t be out the cost of the BMW.
Mark Gilmartin, president of Hole in One International, said, “There are three factors that go into the pricing: the length of the hole, the actual value of the prize and the number of participants.”
A hole-in-one is a wondrous thing, but I had to ask Mark whether he secretly hopes that nobody gets one.
“We don’t do anything secretly,” he said. “It’s an insurance product. Like all insurance products, it’s a game of numbers. . . . Basically, we do enough events that everything comes out in the wash. Hopefully, there’s a little bit of profit at the end of the year for us.”
Colin, a D.C. resident, does not consider himself a good golfer. His game is lacrosse. He played in high school and in college, at Hampden-Sydney, where he captained the lacrosse team in his senior year.
“It’s just that kind of sport where, once you play it, you’re always involved, no matter your age,” said Colin, who just turned 30. “It helped me get through college. It teaches you discipline and leadership.”
Those are precisely the qualities that Winners Lacrosse is trying to instill. The group works with about 2,000 boys and girls ages 5 to 15 in D.C. traditional public and public charter schools.
“A lot of kids have never seen it before, never played it,” said Matt, who played lacrosse at Duke. Winners Lacrosse provides coaching and equipment. It started the District’s first middle school lacrosse league, which last spring had five girls’ teams and five boys’ teams.
“It’s pretty amazing what they’ve done,” Colin said. “They’ve brought the sport to a whole other level.”
The golf outing at the Gainesville, Va., course is an annual event. Colin’s entry fee that day was paid by his employer, the Heffron Co., a 93-year-old, family-owned mechanical contracting firm (plumbing, heating, air conditioning) based in Rockville, Md. The golf tournament’s luncheon featured a speech by Joe Alberici, head lacrosse coach at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He spoke about being responsible, about being accountable, about doing the right thing — on the field and in life.
No one has ever made a hole-in-one at the Winners fundraiser. Still, every year Passport BMW sends over a car to park on the 17th tee as an inspiration.
“It’s just kind of a show piece,” Matt said. “You’re never thinking anyone is actually going to hit it.”
The 17th hole was 172 yards. Colin chose a 5-wood. His swing was not a thing of beauty, but his ball — bearing the number 33, the number he wore in college — cleared the water hazard and hit the green.
“Then it disappeared,” Colin said. “All of a sudden, my buddy tackled me. I said, ‘What’s going on? What’s going on?’ ”
What was going on was that Colin had made a hole-in-one. By the time he reached 17 and pulled his ball from the cup, 20 people were on the green cheering him.
“It was probably the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me,” Colin said.
He called Laurie to tell her that the earlier text had been a joke — he hadn’t really won the BMW at that point — but now he was telling the truth: He had won the car after all.
“She was so excited to have it,” he said.
But amid all the hubbub and high-fiving, Colin thought back to the luncheon speaker, Coach Alberici.
“He’d said, ‘Look, you guys are here because you’ve done pretty well in business. A lot of other people don’t have the opportunities that you guys had. Whenever you can, do the right thing.’”
Colin knew what he was going to do.
“When I got home that night,” he said, “I told Laurie I didn’t have the keys and that we were giving it back. She was like, ‘What do you mean?’ ”
Colin explained: He wasn’t going to take the car. The money from the BMW — $25,000, the cost of a two-year lease — would go back to Winners Lacrosse so it could help more D.C. kids.
“She lit up like a tree once she realized we were going to help out everyone. She said, ‘This is a good thing to do. We don’t need a car.’ ”
The odds of an amateur golfer making a hole-in-one are about 13,000 to 1. The odds of doing the right thing? That’s up to each of us.
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.