Written by Totally Buffalo Contributor, Taylor Kickbush
I’ve never been one of those lucky people who win on scratch-off lottery tickets, score a brand-new car at the casino, or receive random phone calls that say I’ve won a cruise to Hawaii. (Okay, I think we’ve all received those phone calls.)
The truth is, I didn’t think I was a lucky person. That was, until I met a Buffalo man named Russell Rizzuto.
Russell and I met one another on May 21, 2018, during a golf tournament hosted at Corning Country Club to support Corning Community College in Corning, N.Y. As with any Buffalonian I meet, Russell and I connected immediately and talked about what area we’re from, our jobs, etc.
As a photographer, I was taking photos at the golf tournament and as it turns out, I was fortunate enough to be at Corning Country Club when the only known Buffalo man in the tournament scored a hole-in-one. The shot granted him $10,000 and provided $10,000 to the Corning Community College Development Foundation, besides.
Talk about a game (and life) changer.
Russell plugged the hole-in-one after driving on hole three. He used a five-iron golf club to skyrocket his ball 190 yards over the fairway to the yellow pin. One witness said Russell’s golf ball skipped the putting green altogether and sunk directly into the cup.
You can imagine Russell’s excitement and the celebratory antics that ensued, especially when considering that an ace for amateur golfers happens to about one in every 12,500 people (according to Golf Digest).
“It was a surreal experience. When it happened, I couldn’t believe it!” he excitedly told me later.
Russell came to the tournament not knowing a soul. He golfed alongside (non-Buffalo) teammates Tom Fontana, Eddy Lowe, and Ryan Marzac on Team Sprague. When Russell won $10K, he invited them (and me!) to his mother’s house for “Sunday Sauce.”
Ah, a true Buffalonian sharing his wealth through home-cooked meals.
After meeting Russell, I truly feel like my luck has pivoted for the better. I don’t feel blessed because I was fortunate enough to be in the presence of a winner, I feel lucky in that I could celebrate a new friend’s once-in-a-lifetime moment.
That day, I took home with me Russell’s often-said response to people wondering about his incredible play:
“This wasn’t a hole-in-one, it was a hole-in-all. I didn’t win. We won.