VALDOSTA — Bill Parker is not a superstitious man.
Odd numbers just don’t sit well with him.
The Stone Creek golfer is working to change one odd number in his life — 17 holes-in-one to 18.
“I just prefer even numbers,” said Parker, 82, of Valdosta. “I’m working toward that 18 now.”
This is not to say Parker doesn’t realize how fortunate he is to have 17 holes-in-one.
For some perspective, one of his all-time favorite golfers, Jack Nicklaus, has made 20 holes-in-one. Tiger Woods, who hit his first hole-in-one at 6 years old, also has 20.
“A lot of golfers never have a hole in one,” Parker said. “If they do, it’s maybe one or two. You have to be very lucky.”
All of Parker’s holes-in-one have been verified, meaning someone was there to witness his aces.
He has also been featured several times on the Georgia State Golf Association hole-in-one lists.
This “luck,” as he refers to it, had to start somewhere, though.
His first hole-in-one came not long after he took up golfing in the early 1970s.
He admired the playing styles of Lee Trevino and Arnold Palmer, so he thought he would try it out at the Valdosta Country Club.
Only a few years later, in 1977, he shot his first hole-in-one on 16 as he neared the end of a round with a few of his friends.
He used a 6-iron to hit the 171-yard shot.
“The first one was just so exciting,” Parker said. “You can’t imagine playing for several years that when a hole in one comes, you’re just so ecstatic.”
Then came seven more just at that course alone.
His love for golf would take him to other courses, too, such as ones in Helen, Orlando, Fla., and he even had the opportunity to watch the Masters in Augusta.
One 1995 hole-in-one is especially notable for him and his wife, Nancy Parker, who also golfs.
He was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the time — quickly enough to where a couple of months of radiation at Shands University Hospital in Gainesville, Fla., took care of it, but it was still a scary time for the Parker family.
To deal with his health hardship, Parker chose golf.
“We were golfing as a diversion,” Nancy said. “That afternoon after he had his treatment, we played nine holes. I was so glad and thankful that he was strong and well enough to even golf.”
It was Nancy’s first time she saw her husband hit a hole-in-one at the Meadowbrook Golf Club.
She said he has also used golf to work through a hip replacement, kidney problems and the occasional back pain.
“I try to work right on through it,” Parker said. “I don’t quit because of injuries.”
Nancy later witnessed him get more holes-in-one at their current club, Stone Creek Golf Club, with the most recent one in June of this year.
During Parker’s membership at Stone Creek, he has accumulated a total of seven aces.
Parker has used golf as a way to make long-lasting friendships — he golfs at Stone Creek with a group called the “Parbusters” — and to keep his family close.
His two sons golf and have since high school, and even some of his five grandchildren golf.
“I don’t know what I would do without golf. It has been a passion of mine for all of these years,” Parker said. “It’s my game, and it’s the one I love. I like the competition, friendship with the guys — it’s all inclusive for me.”
Parker, who has been retired from State Farm Insurance Companies since 2001, golfs almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The likelihood of getting a hole-in-one in a golfer’s game is rare, he said, let alone 17 of them.
There is a way to be good at the game, which feels just as great to him.
“You have to focus in on the total game — from the start of the tee shot, you’ve got to focus,” Parker said. “First thing is to remember to keep your head down. From that shot on if you do that, it keeps you in focus.”
Parker really wants that 18th hole-in-one.
But it’s just as good of a day on the course when he can golf a score below his age of 82.
Katelyn Umholtz is a reporter with the Valdosta Daily Times. She can be contacted at (229)244-3400 ext. 1256.