Doug Sleeper knew he’d never be able to teach his sons to throw a football or take a jump shot.
When Sleeper was 31, bone cancer in his humerus – the long bone that runs from your shoulder to your elbow – left him with limited mobility in his right arm.
“Let’s just say that if I was in a ‘stick ‘em up,’ I couldn’t raise my arm,” said Sleeper, now 52. “It’s fortunate for me that my sport was golf. My right arm stays close to my body when I swing.”
That background makes what happened to Sleeper and his family over Labor Day weekend at Carmel Country Club in Charlotte, where they are members, even more incredible.
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Sleeper played golf at Boston College, and he got his wife, Kim, hooked to the point that she played 18 holes on the due date of the first of their two sons. Jack, 17, and Will, 14, have followed suit, and both boys are accomplished golfers.
Saturday, Doug, Kim and Will were out playing at Carmel Country Club’s North course when Will’s tee shot on the 113-yard 10th hole began tracking toward the cup.
The ball landed about 5 feet past the hole and spun back.
“We said, ‘Wow, this is going to be close,’ ” Kim said. “And then it disappeared in the hole.”
The hole-in-one was Will’s second.
While his mother said the group was “jumping up and down,” Will remembered it differently. “I was pretty chill about it,” he said.
Two days later, Doug and Kim were joined for a round by another couple, and they found themselves back at the North Course’s 10th hole.
“We said to the couple, ‘This is the hole,’ ” Kim said. “We had talked about it in the beginning of the round and we’d joked that with four of us and four par-3s on the course there’d be 16 chances for another one.”
The pin had been moved to just past a greenside bunker and was still playing 113 yards. Doug hit a pitching wedge.
“His shot looked like it would be really close,” Kim said. “We could not see the hole, but drove the cart up and noticed that there were only three balls on the green.
“I ran up to the flag and looked in the hole, and there was Doug’s ball.”
Sleeper sent his son a text message.
“He said something like, ‘Sorry I had to take your fame away so quickly,’ ” Will said.
Added Sleeper: “I told him, ‘Your dad will go to great lengths to one-up you.’ ”
As a family, the Sleepers have combined for nine holes-in-one. Doug has four, Jack one, and Will and Kim two each.
The odds of an average golfer making a hole-in-one are 12,500 to 1, according to Golf Digest, with the odds for low-handicappers such as the Sleepers about 5,000 to 1. But they’re all special.
“Given the circumstances, (Monday’s) was the most exciting,” Doug Sleeper said. “They’re all fun, but seeing what happened two days earlier on the same hole – it was a chart topper. I can’t show (my boys) how to shoot a basketball or throw a baseball. But I can still work them over a little bit in golf, although they’re starting to beat me now.
“It makes golf that much more special.”