Michael Link and Pat Ross got a standing ovation recently from 100-plus golfers in the clubhouse at the Hills at McKendree.
The twosome had just shot a remarkable 18-under-par July 25 in the weekly senior scramble at the Lebanon course. Their round included 2 pars, 14 birdies and two eagles.
"We've been playing these scrambles for years, and we've never had 18 under before," said Link, 60, of Belleville. "We've shot 13 under a half-dozen times, 15 ... 16 but we never had a perfect score like this."
Senior golf (for those over 50) is at an all-time high, with scrambles (each player hits every other ball) held every week at the Acorns, Arlington, Oakbrook, Tamarack, The Orchards, Triple Lakes and other area courses. None of those other courses had seen an 18-under, either, Link said.
"I've been around here a long time and it's the first I've ever seen," said Ken Bunetic, assistant general manager at The Hills. "These guys are really good. They win it every week. Usually a 12 or 13 under wins."
In their magical round, Link and Ross missed only two putts. With three holes left, the pressure was on. They had to birdie all four holes for the perfect score. They did it.
"There are lots of good senior golfers," said Ross, 57, of Belleville. "It was just our day."
The standing O came when the scores were read. Ross wasn't even in the clubhouse at the time.
"It was unbelievable," Link said. "I brought everyone a round of drinks."
Link and Ross both live at The Orchards in Belleville. They've been playing in tournaments together since 1999, Ross said.
Link is semi-retired. He workedfor an intelligence agency in St. Louis. He and his wife, Diane have two daughters, Kristin and Stephanie.
Link has been playing golf since he was a teenager. He has played in the U.S. Senior Open qualifier and plays in several senior scrambles each week. He figures he practices golf about 20 hours a week.
The best individual game he ever shot was a 62 at The Orchards.
Ross retired from the Air Force in 2006 and works as a flight manager in Civil Service at Scott Air Force Base. He and his wife, Rhonda, have a son, Colby, and a daughter, Kristin; and three grandchildren, Robbie and Tyler Ross and Brody Wilmes.
Ross' best individual game was a 65 "way, way back in high school" in California. His favorite metro-east course is Gateway National Golf Course in Madison.
What are their strengths?
"Mike's is definitely putting ... and his wedge game," Ross said of his partner. "Mine are my tee ball and irons ... I guess mine is more of an all-around game."
Almost any Thursday, you'll find Link and Ross out on the course at The Hills, trying to get that elusive 18-under.
"It won't happen again," Link said.
But that won't keep them from trying.