By CARL GREEN
Columbia, IL – In a year full of stress and worry, good news can be hard to find, almost as hard as hitting a hole-in-one, but this is a story about one of those happy feats.
Riley Zimmermann, 23, of St. Jacob, Ill., grew up in a union household in Highland and learned to appreciate his dad and the union. Riley also learned to play golf and took an interest in biology. He’s now a junior at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville.
Every year his father’s union, Iron Workers Local 392, holds a golf tournament to raise money for scholarships for the children and grandchildren of members. This year’s tournament was held on Sept. 12 at the Prairies of Cahokia golf course.
An avid golfer, Riley joined in, just to have some fun and help the cause. When he got to the 165-yard par-three third hole – designated with a $10,000 prize for a hole-in-one – he stepped up to give it his best shot.
He gave it a powerful swing, and his playing partners watched in excitement as the ball shot straight toward the pin. It took a single bounce, about three feet from the hole, then plunked firmly into the cup. A hole-in-one! If he’d been playing slots at a casino, this is the point when the bells and flashing lights would have kicked in.
Riley’s shot wasn’t just a fluke. The Zimmermanns were members of Highland Country Club as he grew up, and he still tries to play once a week.
“Every par-three, you’re trying to hit a hole-in-one, right?” he told the Labor Tribune later. “It was our third hole of the day. The first two holes, I guess I wasn’t very warmed up yet. But I was the first in our group to tee off, and the first one to hit, and it ended up going in the hole.”
TIME TO CELEBRATE
Last week, Local 392 officers joined with Riley, his father, James Zimmermann, and hole sponsor Bob Brockland, of Brockland Buick-GMC, at the dealership in Columbia to celebrate Riley’s feat and to hand over the check.
The scholarship funds raised at the tournament have not been given out yet; that will happen next April. But Riley has his prize in hand, and he has sensible plans for it.
“It’s pretty much going straight to SIUE for next semester, and I might keep a little bit extra and maybe get my girlfriend a ring or something, I’m thinking,” he said. “We’ll see what kind of extra we’ve got.”
For now, it’s back to class and hitting the books. “There are plenty of options out there for biology degrees,” he said. “It’s maybe not the easiest one, but it’s what I’m interested in.”
Brockland has been a sponsor of the Local 392 tournament for years, sometimes offering $10,000 and other years a new car for the hole-in-one prize; a golfer got the car a few years ago. “It’s no harm to us – we just buy insurance,” Brockland said. “We’re happy to spend the insurance company’s money.”
UNION CHANGED HIS LIFE
James Zimmermann, 57, of Highland, said he worked in non-union jobs before joining Local 392 some 21 years ago. He now works at St. Jacob Glass.
“I got in a little late,” he said. “A couple or three years and I’ll be hanging it up. It’s the best deaI I could have possibly made. I had a lot of non-union jobs before that, manufacturing and whatnot, doing some welding. I got in the Iron Workers and it changed my life, absolutely.”
Growing up, Riley said he learned to appreciate his father – and the union.
“I’m proud that he is in a union,” he said. “I believe unions are a good thing. He’s always worked hard for me.”
James Zimmermann says now it’s his turn to be proud.
“I haven’t had a hole-in-one, so I haven’t experienced it,” he said. “I’m glad he got to experience it, and it just happened to be on the right hole – thanks to Bob Brockland.”