Most amateur golfers and many pros can play their entire life chasing that elusive milestone - a hole-in-one, but it only took 16-year-old Yosemite High School student Claire Oetinger seven years to accomplish the feat after picking up a club for the first time at the age of 9.
The returning North Sequoia League MVP from last season and the No. 1 golfer on the YHS team, Oetinger pulled off the historic feat Wednesday on the par three, 134-yard 7th hole at Pheasant Run Country Club in Chowchilla with a seven iron during a North Sequoia League mini-tournament.
Oetinger is the daughter of YHS Athletic Director and Coach Rusty Oetinger.
“As the team coach, I am very proud of Claire and am very appreciative that she and and this team are working hard each and every day at being players and people,” Rusty said. “This is uncharted territory for Cecelia and I as parents. It is a lot of fun to watch your kid have personal successes and we are blown away by the things she is accomplishing, not only on the golf course, but in school and life.”
“I was really shocked when the ball went in the hole,” Claire said. “It was pretty exciting getting my first hole-in-one.”
After seeing the ball drop in the cup, Oetinger dropped her club and had a subtle celebratory dance, spinning around a couple of times.
Oetinger said she never made getting a hole-in-one a goal because it is not realistic since it’s only possible to get one on only one of two holes on most golf courses.
“I never approach the tee box on par threes thinking I want to get a hole-in-one,” Claire said. “I always approach the tee box on par threes thinking I want to get a good first shot on the green to have the chance to get a birdie with one putt.”
She shot a seven over par 42 on the day - not her best score of the season - but good enough to place first in the match.
She was playing with teammate Megan Rich and Chowchilla’s No. 1 and 2 players.
“They all congratulated me on the shot,” Claire said.
As exciting as the hole-in-one was, Claire would be the first to tell you the team clinching its 12th consecutive league title will outweigh her personal feat.
Yosemite won the match with 129 points, followed by Chowchilla (111 points), Liberty-Madera Ranchos (89), Kerman (67), Sierra (54) and Washington Union (48).
Claire’s teammates, Meagan Rich and Trinity Curtis, placed fourth and fifth in the tournament.
Claire received her first set of golf clubs from her Uncle Paul Oetinger, who is currently the head women’s/men’s golf coach at Holy Names College in East Bay.
“Hopefully Claire will follow in the footsteps of Paul’s son Chris, who has played as a professional in tournaments in California and Asia, after being Cal State East Bay’s Athlete and Golfer of the Year his senior year,” Rusty said.
Currently, Oetinger, Megan Rich and Trinity Curtis are in the running for the NSL All League team.
“If Sarah has a strong showing over the next two tournaments, she could overtake one of the girls from Chowchilla for the last spot on the All League team,” Coach Oetinger said. “If Sarah makes it, it would give Yosemite four of the top six spots.”
The team is in very good shape to win its 12th consecutive league title and Claire her back-to-back league MVP honors this week.