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Mr. Hole In One: Joe Balsanek has five holes-in-one

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The cup on the 15th hole at Majestic Oaks Golf Club sat behind a mound when Joe Balsanek teed off Aug. 13. It was 134 yards away, and Balsanek grabbed his 7-iron.

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His son-in-law was with him. It was a nice day, and Balsanek was doing what he can't get enough of.

Backswing.

Contact.

And off flew the little dimpled ball.

It went behind the mound. Probably landed on the green, Balsanek figured.

He was right.

The sun had set. It was getting dark fast, as it always does here in November. Joe Balsanek was on the 17th hole at Bellwood Oaks. It's a long par 3 at 184 yards, so Balsanek grabbed his 5-wood.

Backswing.

Contact.

And off flew the little dimpled ball.

He thought he saw it long enough to know it was on a good line and it was headed toward the green.

He was right.

On those two memorable days for the Hastings man, he recorded holes-in-one.

And three other times during his golf career, he's done the same thing.

Five holes-in-one from one guy.

He must be the luckiest guy in the world, right?

Not really. After recording the feat, he always buys a lottery ticket. Still not a winner there.

But on the course? Yes, luck is on his side. Skill exists, obviously, but Balsanek is quick to point out he has a big factor on his side.

You can't win the lottery if you don't play, right?

Well, same thing for a hole-in-one. And, the more you play, the better the odds get that you'll record the feat. Balsanek plays about 90 holes a week during the summer here, and he gets some rounds in during the winter, too. He knows all that playing has helped him improve the odds.

In fact, three of his holes-in-one have come since he retired and was able to get on the course more often.

"They just sort of pop up out of nowhere," he said. "The stars pretty much have to line up for you. I feel truly blessed that I have five of them."

Balsanek said he has played every month in Minnesota except January. He remembers fondly the warm February of 1987, when courses like Valleywood, Parkview and Rich Valley were able to open up. He fondly remembers one Christmas Eve he was able to play.

And he dreads the fall. This time of year, he said he about starts to panic as the weather turns cooler and the hours to get in a round diminish.

His first hole-in-one came Aug. 13, 1991, at Inver Wood Golf Course. He aced the 125-yard third hole with a pitching wedge.

His second came just a few months later at Gem Lake Hills, where he used an 8-iron on the 132-yard 12th hole. It was Oct. 22, 1991.

Nine years went by until he got his third hole-in-one, this one coming Sept. 13, 2000, at Manitou Ridge. He aced the 138-yard seventh hole with a 9-iron.

His game

Balsanek's infatuation with golf had some pretty humble beginnings.

While growing up in Iowa, a friend offered him a pretty good deal on some clubs. Balsanek bought a set for $1 a club, and then an uncle gave him a set of woods. He golfed with those clubs for about 14 years, until he turned 30 and upgraded.

Balsanek never played on his high school team, but he probably played more often than the guys who were.

His family was in the restaurant business, and when a businessman opened a par-3 executive course down the road and became a regular at the restaurant, he started giving Balsanek and his brother some discounts at the course.

In graduate school, he started playing weekly and when he and his wife sold their first house, he upgraded those clubs with their equity check.

He eventually started playing in some tournaments and getting in some leagues. He lived in Rosemount and played regularly at Southern Hills with friends.

Then came the move to Hastings. With Bellwood Oaks, Hidden Greens, the Hastings Country Club and all the surrounding courses, his love for the game grew.

"We're really blessed with a lot of great courses in the area," he said.

When he retired at the age of 53, well, you can imagine what he started doing with his time.

He now plays four to five days a week. He plays on the Minnesota Golf Association senior tour.

He's now a 12-handicapper.

His best rounds? He once had a 31 on nine holes, and for 18, his best round was a two-under par 70.

He is thankful and happy his wife, Betsy, has supported his addiction/hobby/habit.

He's also been able to develop some great friendships because of the game.

"I've picked up such wonderful friends," he said. "My best friends are all golfers. We just all kind of hang together."

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Chad Richardson
Chad Richardson is the publisher and editor at the Hastings Star Gazette. He was the general manager of the Farmington Independent and Rosemount Town Pages from 2000 to 2007. He previously worked at the Star Gazette from 1996 to 2000 as a photographer and reporter. He also worked as a photographer and writer at the Pope County Tribune in Glenwood.
(651) 319-4500
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