LAKE ELMO, Minn. — A Cottage Grove golfer thought he made a $10,000 hole-in-one last month, but a discounted green fee meant he walked away with a $200 bar tab and a heartbreaking story of what could have been.
As soon as Matt Dorgan swung an 8-iron on the 16th hole Aug. 2 at the Royal Golf Club in Lake Elmo, he said his buddy told him it looked like a good hit.
The tee shot found the green on the par-3 hole, hit the flag and landed about 3 feet behind it. Then the ball started rolling back.
“And I said, ‘Hang on, hang on,’” Dorgan recalled. “Then the ball disappeared.”
It was the first hole-in-one for the 31-year-old golfer, and a feat others have gone a lifetime without achieving.
“We were all cheering and yelling,” Dorgan said, adding he followed golf tradition and bought drinks afterward to the tune of about $200.
His elation grew after another golfer mentioned that Dorgan may have won some money with that swing.
It turned out the course’s $10,000 hole-in-one prize was on the 16th hole. The Royal Golf Club partners with Illinois-based Swing King, a company that manages hole-in-one contests at golf courses in the region and around the country. Swing King sets up automated recording equipment and pays out prizes.
But when Dorgan contacted golf course staff about the prize money, that’s when he got the bad news.
Dorgan said he played that day with a discounted green fee because one of the members of his group is a golf course employee. Only the full prime-time fee includes entry into the hole-in-one prize, and they didn’t pay the optional $5 add-on to be eligible.
There was a silver lining, though. Because Swing King records the prize hole with a camera, Dorgan said he was told they would have a video of his hole-in-one — a rare opportunity for an amateur golfer.
That turned out to be a bust, too.
Dorgan said he contacted Swing King and was told an unedited copy of the video would set him back $250. He declined.
Royal Golf Club general manager Ken Galloway confirmed the details of the prize hole and the $5 add-on for golfers paying a reduced rate. “Most people say no thanks,” he said of the added fee.
Dorgan said he wasn’t offered the $5 fee and, at least in hindsight, would have paid it had he known about it. But he said the sting of what happened has started to fade.
“I’ve got the ball still and the scorecard,” Dorgan said. “So I guess I’ve got something.”