Frank Leuthold worked at the woolen mills of Oregon Worsted Company, located in Sellwood, less than a half mile down the road from Eastmoreland. The mill was built in 1909, by one of the Bishops brothers who owned Pendleton Wool. It was booming during WWI and then again throughout WWII. Frank worked there since he was a young man in the 1920's until they finally closed the mill in 1976. Frank's job was to make sure the looms kept running and everyday he would ply his fingers into the mechanisms and gears to adjust the metals that would produce some of the finest woolen fabrics in Oregon. Each evening after work, these same hands and fingers would be put to use towards his passion - gripping the club with a gentle firmness that Sam Snead once described as “like holding a baby bird in your hand” - and letting the arms swing to send that dimpled ball 1.68 inches large towards a hole just 4.5 inches small some 168 yards away. On this particular day March 6, 2000 Frank must have donned his rain jacket and a well brimmed hat to stave off the cold light drizzle (0.08 inches) that started at 37* and peaked at a blustery 48*.
For all but the truly dedicated golfer, this was not a day to take on the elements on the Eastmoreland golf course. For Frank this was just another Wednesday and at 88 years old - he no longer had to ply his hands in the looms - so everyday was a good day for golf.
Ever since he started at the wool factory in the 1920's until its closure in 1976 (see History of the Mill Store), Frank became a fixture at Eastmoreland - the wool factory located just a few thousand yards from the tee box of the 5th hole - nestled up on the hill close to where the original #4 green once stood some 70 years earlier. It was always the course for the community so a guy like Frank could feel at home looping the links on a daily basis. For years he would show up at dawn to squeeze in 9 or after work to squeeze in as many as possible until the sun went down. His wife was known as one of the classic golf widows - yet on many an occasion - she would join him on the course - or play along with the Ladies club. Frank was a fixture of the Men’s club during the days of the the “Wolves Game” though it’s just as likely he knew enough to stay at arms length.
Frank was well known on the course, born in 1912 the year his family moved from Switzerland to the United States. Frank’s older brother Joe was actually more famous in his lifetime - a mountaineer and skier who lived up to his Swiss roots and pioneered many of the early ascents on Mt. Hood in the 1930’s. He later taught rock climbing to the newly minted 10th mountaineering division at Fort Lewis and would go on to fight the axis powers in the winter slopes of Italy and come home a hero. Joe passed away 35 earlier in 1965 as one of the most heralded climbers and founders of the Mt Hood Ski Patrol - and just might trekked up the hill to the #5 tee with Frank in the past, or at least on this day in spirit.
Playing in Eastmoreland all these years Frank amassed an impressive collection of golf balls. Like many of the grizzled veterans that battled the “great ball hawk monster” as coined by the past Men’s club president, Eastmoreland was a treasure trove of free golf balls for those that understand where to look. His collection was estimated over 10,000 golf balls with over 3 blue barrels filled with balls from decades of scrounging.
On this day he pulled out a black Titleist DT 100 number 3, the predecessor to today’s ProV1 “a solid center wound technology for golfers seeking a combination of long tee to green distance, wound ball spin, responsive feel and cut-proof durability”. The Pro version of the DT 100 had a balata cover Given the year he played this ball - there’s a pretty good chance this ball was purchased new in the pro-shop, though as I look it over carefully it has the wear of at least four holes and maybe more. There’s at least one scuff mark reminiscent of a bounce off a cart path (perhaps an overly safe drive on #2 or approach pulled left on #3) plus a few marks that reveal the wear or a well struck wedge. Given his penchant for finding balls it’s just as likely he found this ball during his last round by weekend warrior who proceeded to purchase and lose a brand new sleeve before even finishing hole #13.
Frank usually played in the mornings, though I’m not certain what time he climbed the hill from the #4 green, or how many over par he was. At 88 years old if he were playing bogey golf - he very well might be on his way to shooting his age. A feat he’s alleged to have done more than a few times in the past years. What would happen next would only bolster that opportunity.
He ascended the hill to the 5th tee, perched on the highest point of the entire course. At the top he pulled out a seven wood - a club not found in many bags - though a one I’ve wielded on occasion especially before the advent of the spoon-like hybrids that came to the market post 2001. Most likely, he did not have to think too hard about the club choice - the 5th hole provides from two tee boxes carved into the hill like a stepped garden with the whites playing between 165-180 and the blues from 200-215. The pin location from front to back adds the greatest variance a large square shaped green with rounded corners that is 30 yards top to bottom and 20 yards side to side. Everything slopes to the front with a slight tilt to the front left. The slope is the greatest at the top most portion of the green and the bottom with another false front. The flagstick was most likely cut somewhere back center perhaps slightly more to the left side as the distance recorded on this day was 175 from the whites. Though the elevation of at least 150 feet means the hole plays at least 10-15 yards less - however the wind will be a factor as the ball will apex far above the treeline - and weather reports a brisk 10-15 mph wind blowing east from left to right across the hole.
At 88 years old, it’s a triumph to swing the club, by choosing a seven wood for a 175 shot showed he still could crack the whip.
At 88 years old, it’s a triumph to swing the club, so choosing a seven wood for a 175 shot showed he still could crack the whip. Most players know the one club that will get them to the center of the green - assuming it’s well struck. It’s likely that Frank did not take too much time over the ball after he teed it up less than an inch - perhaps using one of the many broken tees strewn in the ground. One practice swing and go - and while it’s impossible to know whether his shot was a line drive that landed well in front of the green or perhaps took an errant right turn and into the tall firs and took a lucky kick back to the left - we do know that the result makes these possibilities highly unlikely. For on this March day the ground around the 5th green is soft and clingy and typically the only shots that find the green are ones that fly straight and true into the sky, hanging in the air for just a minute as the golfer and the player partners pray - be long enough - c’mon wind - or let it be right as the ball begins the descent straight down to the earth and towards the pin. In Frank’s case, on this day, the ball was as right as it could possibly be coming to rest in the hole - perhaps on a slam dunk - one-hopper - or a ricochet off the pin straight down into the hole - or as I like to think two bounce roller that ever so gently trickled right into the center of the hole… so Frank could watch in anticipation for the white spec to disappear. But who know’s if he even knew - after all the uncertainty that comes from eyes looking for 88 years and playing with fellas who most likely half blind and deaf. It was a miracle they could still convince their wives to let them drive to the course everyday, let alone see a golf ball find it’s home 175 yards away on an overcast March day.
So let me shout out now, from the 5th tee and highest point on the entire course even with some of the tallest treetops of Eastmoreland - “IT’S IN THE HOLE!!”
The Oregonian published his hole in one the following week along with 15 other players - most other them were short shots 148 yards or less - still a magnificent feat… though if I may, none as special as the 175 yard seven wood on the 5th by Frank Leuthold, who at 88 years young is the oldest player to record a hole in one in the history of Eastmoreland.
And if I have to wait that long for mine - well, all the sweeter it will be. Here's to you, Frank.
Special thanks to Howard Boyte for sharing the story and loaning Frank's clubs and trophy to Eastmoreland 100 Project.