facebook-pixel

Flying ace: Former jet pilot makes two holes-in-one in his 90s

Taylorsville resident Don Urry, 92, notched his latest ace in June at Stansbury Park Golf Course.

(Photo by Kurt Kragthorpe, Special to The Tribune) Taylorsville resident Don Urry, 92, stands on the 13th tee at Stansbury Park Golf Course, where he carded a hole-in-one last month.

Stansbury Park • Don Urry waited barely long enough for the two former Stansbury High School football players to stroll from the 13th green to their cart before swinging his driver on the par-3 hole at Stansbury Park Golf Course.

Impatience might be the most-used club in Urry’s golf bag. Being in a hurry enabled him to have two witnesses attest to the second hole-in-one of his 90s.

Urry, a former jet fighter pilot and retired air traffic controller, usually flies solo around the course. He tees the ball high and delivers crisp, low-flying drives with a compact swing, as his hands never rise above his shoulders. The result is a shot that travels about 80 yards in the air and rolls a long way — and, in two cases in the past year — stopping only when the ball struck the flagstick.

It happened again in June, although Urry wishes he could have witnessed the ball’s complete journey. “I saw it clear the water and it kind of disappeared,” he said. “Finally, I look in the cup, and there it is.”

That’s the story behind the latest reward for a golfer who lives across the street from a Salt Lake County course in Taylorsville, yet commutes 27 miles to Stansbury Park. He’s the 92-year-old driver in the fast lane, known to sail past PGA professional Tom Costello’s vehicle, going home on I-80 from the course just west of the Oquirrh Mountains.

“It’s awesome to have the regulars that come out all the time,” said Costello, who knows Urry only by his nickname of “Duck.”

Urry was among a dozen Federal Aviation Administration employees who began frequenting Stansbury Park in the early 1980s, during Costello’s first stint at the course. They played on their midweek days off, for the sake of stress relief. Urry keeps coming back, believing it’s cooler on the other side of the Oquirrhs in the summer and warmer at other times of the year.

During the golf season, ”He sleeps better. He eats better,” said Joyce, his wife of 65 years. “I do think it’s good for him.”

Golf is “woven into the fabric of his life,” said his granddaughter, Alyssa Wilson. “It’s what gets him out and moving. It’s what stimulates his mind, along with his crosswords. … He just really loves the sport. It keeps him feeling like he has a purpose.”

A 101-year-old man in Florida is recognized as the oldest golfer to record an ace. Glen Armstrong made two holes-in-one in his 90s at Fore Lakes, a par-3/executive course in Taylorsville, according to a Deseret News story in 2020. The disclaimer is Fore Lakes offers 15 holes for potential aces, compared with only four on Stansbury’s Park standard 18-hole layout.

An Ogden native who grew up in Boise, Idaho, Urry joined the Air Force and flew the F-86D “Sabre Dog” with the 440th Fighter Interceptor Squadron in Germany during the Cold War era of the early 1950s. Stories from that phase of his life flow more freely than the details of his five holes-in-one, which tend to run together. Regardless, he’ll be well remembered at Stansbury Park.

During the interview at the course, his daughter, Joni, mentioned the family intends to plant a tree on the course to honor him sometime this year. Urry recoiled upon hearing the plans, almost as if discovering that the event would come in memoriam. He demanded to know, “Did [Costello] agree to this?”

Urry is forever loyal to Stansbury Park, where he has outlived his playing partners. “Pardon the tears,” he said, pausing during a recent interview in the pro shop. “They’re all gone.”

So he usually plays alone these days, preferably on the less-crowded back nine. A group of 18-hole players sometimes chides him about teeing off ahead of them on No. 10, so he’ll start on No. 1 and drive over to the back nine if he sees an opening.

Urry craves competition, which he manufactures by playing two balls in a match with an imaginary opponent. One shot was sufficient on No. 13 in June. An official ace requires validation, so Urry was fortunate that the ex-Stansbury Stallions, Dreyton Rowley and Trot Baker, could provide. His fifth career hole-in-one was his second in the past eight months and third in just over six years.

Urry’s shot over the pond on No. 5 in 2016 had rewarded Costello’s advice to move up to the forward tees at age 86, although the pro watched him drive from the white markers on No. 1 the next day.

Built in the 1970s, Stansbury Park is an old-style course that still uses red markers for the forward tees and generally places them on the same tee boxes. Urry by now has overcome any stigma of the reds (“It’s not ‘ladies’ anymore; it’s whoever wants to play it,” he said). And those tees provide an advantage on the par-3s, all playing over water.

On No. 13, Urry was credited with a 120-yard ace. No. 5, where he made another hole-in-one last fall, plays about 105 yards. In 1998, according to the details he wrote on his Titleist, he aced the 146-yard, downhill No. 3 at Glenmoor GC in South Jordan, using only an 8-iron.

So he may have lost some distance in a quarter-century, but that hardly bothers him. He’s far more focused on accuracy, partly because his habit of playing alone requires tracking his own ball. When he played in a foursome, he points out, he could swing wildly and his partners would follow the ball’s flight. He now forces himself to keep his head steady through impact and is less likely to see the ball fly. So he’d better hit it straight – and he almost always does.

His disciplined swing follows the saying he always told his granddaughter, applying to golf, softball and life in general: “Keep your eye on the ball.”

Urry couldn’t fully track his shot on No. 13 as it found the hole, but the thrill of his fifth ace was the same as with his first. “I don’t think that would ever change,” he said.

He was so happy with the shot that playing four holes of the back nine was enough to justify that day’s 54-mile round trip. “Got in the cart, drove up here,” he said, “and went home.”

In a hurry, as always, with big news to share.

Recent holes-in-one

Forest Dale • Lyndon Froud, No. 3, 115 yards, sand wedge

Forest Dale • Carol Jones, No. 8, 86 yards, sand wedge

Forest Dale • Jacqueline Jensen, No. 6, 70 yards, pitching wedge

Forest Dale • Ellen Bialick, No. 6, 86 yards, 9-iron

Forest Dale • Charley Walker, No. 8, 119 yards, sand wedge

Forest Dale • Jon Richards, No. 8, 92 yards, gap wedge

Forest Dale • Carson Mayer, No. 3, 136 yards, pitching wedge

Fox Hollow • Maren Mello, No. 14, 136 yards, 9-iron

Oakridge Country Club • Keith Ludwig, No. 2, 167 yards, 7-iron.

River Oaks • David Dunn, No. 18, 156 yards, 8-iron

River Oaks • Steve Lybbert, No. 18, 140 yards, 22-degree hybrid

Thanksgiving Point • Charlotte Wagner, No. 17, 120 yards, 8-iron.

Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.