Originally Published: July 14, 2018 9:17 p.m.
It took 30-plus years, but retired Prescott Fire Chief Bruce Martinez finally got it done
PRESCOTT — In more than 30 years of playing golf, retired Prescott Fire Chief Bruce Martinez had never drained a hole-in-one. Typically reserved and a man of few words, Martinez didn’t complain much about his decades-long drought, though.
During the mid-afternoon of June 27, however, Martinez, 58, let his emotions fly after knocking in his first hole-in-one on the 168-yard, par-3 No. 13 hole at Talking Rock Golf Club north of Prescott.
“It was just fun doing it,” Martinez said in reflection July 13 at Antelope Hills Golf Course.
Part of a foursome that day, one that included fellow retired Prescott firemen Brent Schnitzius, Todd Rhines and Duane Steinbrink at a tournament fundraiser for the Prescott Senior Softball League, Martinez initially thought he hadn’t swatted his Titleist Pro V1x ball far enough with his 6-iron.
“I hit it good — it was high and it was right at the hole — but I thought it was short,” Martinez said.
Added Schnitzius, “He kept saying, ‘It’s short! It’s short! It’s short!’ Then it landed on the green and rolled in. We were all watching it and then, Boop! It disappeared.”
“I said, ‘I don’t think so Bruce!’” Rhines recalled of rebuffing the “it’s short” talk. “And it hit the green and it bounced a couple times, started rolling, and I said, ‘I think that’s goin’ in.’ All of the sudden, the ball disappeared. Bruce was very excited. It was just interesting to see Bruce’s reaction, because normally he doesn’t react a whole lot.
“He’s a pretty decent golfer. He’s just not as competitive now as he was when he was younger.”
The day of Martinez’s hole-in-one, he and his team started the day on hole No. 7, so they had completed six holes before the magic happened on Talking Rock’s well-manicured private course. Schnitzius said the course may be more difficult than Antelope Hills, in part because “the greens are just smooth as glass.”
“I went crazy — I was so ecstatic,” Schnitzius said of his reaction to Martinez’s hole-in-one. “All these years I wanted to see it. We don’t play that much together anymore. I high-fived him and I hugged him.”
They finished playing through the 18th hole, and then, as is the tradition in golf, Martinez bought the boys a round of drinks in the clubhouse.
“We talked about it for a while, then had a nice little bar bill at the end,” Martinez said, laughing.
FIRE DEPT. FRATERNITY
Schnitzius, who served 24 years as a captain for Prescott Fire (1975-98), met Martinez when he was a reserve in the department. In the 1970s, Schnitzius outfitted all of the new firemen with their safety equipment, and Martinez was one of them.
“He had a very quiet demeanor, but we became friends,” Schnitzius recalled. “Bruce was very natural at sports, and we started playing golf together in 1987.”
At the time, Schnitzius and Martinez worked at the airport fire station at Ernest A. Love Field, located about a mile north of Antelope Hills in north Prescott.
“We saw golf every day,” Schnitzius said.
Martinez hadn’t tried his hand at golf until 1987.
“I had never played as a young man,” Martinez added.
Rhines, 65, a Prescott fireman from 2003-13, retired after 19 of Prescott Fire’s Granite Mountain Hotshots died while battling the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, 2013. He helped start the Hotshot crew years ago with Steinbrink, a retired battalion chief who would later return to run the Wildland Division. (Famous actor Jeff Bridges played Steinbrink in the 2017 feature film, “Only the Brave,” which chronicled the Hotshots’ story.)
“Duane and Bruce and I and Brent, all four of us, worked together at the Fire Department,” he said. “I worked 27 years at the Forest Service, and we did a lot of cross-training with the Fire Department back in the mid-’80s at getting them up to snuff on wildland firefighting.”
Rhines, who has registered several holes-in-one through the years, said Steinbrink invited the other three to golf at Talking Rock on June 27 to help generate money for the Prescott Senior Softball League. (Steinbrink has played in the league.)
When it comes to golf, Rhines said, “We don’t always play together, but we play in the same group” in the Mile High Men’s Golf Club, which has more than 100 members. They compete in tournaments every other week at different courses, as well as in skins games on Wednesdays and Fridays, and sometimes on the weekends, at Antelope Hills.
“It’s not always the same guys, but we usually have 15, 20, 25 guys out here on any given day playing in a skins game,” Rhines added.
Martinez, Prescott’s fire chief for three years, retired in 2012 after working full time for Prescott Fire for 25 years. He had spent five years in the reserves, too.
“He’s the only firefighter [with Prescott Fire] to ever go all the way through the ranks,” Schnitzius said, “from firefighter, engineer, captain, battalion chief, division chief, deputy chief and then fire chief.”
In his well-deserved retirement, Martinez said he golfs, vacations and dabbles in remodeling.
“It was a very high-stress job,” Martinez said of firefighting. “I’m glad I did. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But I’m glad I’m done.”