Johnny Malone couldn't play golf for two years, and he made a hole-in-one in his third round back.
Johnny Malone didn’t see it.
He thought his golf ball on the par-3 16th hole at Riverbend Golf Complex in Kent had finished just short of the hole. So he looked away.
Because of that, he missed seeing the ball roll in for his third hole-in-one. But it was easily the most meaningful, after spending two years away from the game he loved.
It was a forced absence. First, Malone, 74, was diagnosed with lymphoma and underwent 9½ months of chemotherapy. Then, just when he finished that recovery, it was discovered he had polyps on his colon that had to be surgically removed.
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The new set of woods he bought just before he was diagnosed went unused for a couple of years. Finally, about a month ago, Malone started hitting golf balls again. He had been a very good player, with a 7 to 8 handicap, and he was surprised at how well he was hitting the ball after the long layoff.
And on the 16th hole at Riverbend, in his third round back, he was perfect.
“It was 160 yards so I used a 7-iron, and I knew it was very close, but I thought it had stopped,” said Malone, who said he broke 80 at Riverbend. “I was always a better iron player.”
Malone is feeling fine. He is working four days a week as a skycap for Delta Airlines, and is able to work his schedule around golf.
Malone, from Tacoma, said growing up as an African American in Louisiana there weren’t many opportunities for him to play golf, but he began playing consistently when he moved to the Northwest at age 36.
And he is looking forward to playing for a long time to come.
“I try to stay in decent shape and I am not a person to sit around,” he said. “People always tell me I don’t look like I am 74, and I tell them, ‘I don’t know how a 74-year-old person is supposed to look.’ ”