She's golfed for a decade, but Valerie Dalton is still waiting to feel the exhilaration of her first hole-in-one.
However, she figures she's had the feeling countless times in a classroom.
"Teaching moments have been a hole-in-one for me," says Dalton.
For nearly 30 years, Dalton helped shape the bodies and minds of students as a phys-ed, music and Grade 3 teacher at William Mercer Academy in Trinity Bay's Dover, Topsail Elementary and at Fred Kirby Intermediate in her hometown of Upper Gullies.
That work provided plenty of wonderful memories along the way, like when a student from a lower-class family remarked at Christmas, "'I didn't get you a present, but you're the best teacher I've ever had,'" recounts Dalton.
"That was a hole in one for me."
Dalton is still teaching, but nowadays there are few less Powers, Murphys and O'Briens in the morning roll call.
She retired from her position with the Eastern school district two years ago and set off for Doha, Qatar, where her husband, Albert, was already on a contract with the College of the North Atlantic (CNA). During a visit following Albert's first year, she met the principle of the Canadian school and was drawn to their program.
"I would say I've learned more these children in the past two years than I did in my 30 years with regards to culture, backgrounds, language, customs," she says of the students from Lebanon, Libya, Australia, England and Canada who have inhabited her Grade 3 class since landing in the desert. "
They're educating me as much as I'm educating them."
Like it had so often in the past, her new teaching career landed her another figurative hole in one. This past March, Dalton was chosen as the head of the volunteers committee for the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters Golf Tournament, one of three PGA European Tour stops in the Persian Gulf (the others are the Dubai Classic and Abu Dhabi Golf Championship).
The 128-golfer field has historically drawn some of professional golf's elite including Lee Westwood, Robert Karlsson, Sergio Garcia, Retief Goosen, who vie a hefty payday the quirky Mother of Pearl trophy.
The move to Doha not only enabled Dalton to reconnect with her husband, but also gave her the chance to share in some unique golf experiences. The former St. John's senior softballer got involved with the club and golf tournament in his first year overseas.
"(Albert) was saying, 'Valerie you would not believe. I got to see Colin Montgomerie, Martin Kramer, Henrik Stenson.' And the next weekend he flew to Dubai and got to see Tiger," Dalton says.
"And here I was at home shovelling snow at the time."
Dalton, who will close out her stint at the Canadian school this June to focus on the tournament, is actually a certified Level 3 U.S. Golf Teaching Professional, but insists the role with the Masters plays more to her strengths.
"More than teaching golf, I'd like to get involved in the management. It's funny, I always said when I truly retire I would like to be someone's executive assistant. I've always been known as a really good organizer and planner, so this is really my niche.
"Be careful what you wish for because now I have to schedule 300 volunteers."
With a 13-year history, the event already has an established base of volunteers to chose from, and since Qatar is country where roughly 800,000 of the million inhabitants are from somewhere else in the world, finding them shouldn't be a problem.
Dalton's working team is already in place looking for a chief course marshall, and people to head up the media, scoreboards and driving range. She expects things to ratchet up a notch in September in preparation for a Feb. 3, 2011 opening round at the club she calls "an oasis in the middle of the desert."
The 18-hole, 7,273-yard championship course, built on what was once a barren desert landscape, is kept lush and green with the help of eight artificial lakes built throughout. It's said to be a driver's dream but has plenty of hazard, including - as might be expected - a generous helping of sand traps.
"They've got a beautiful club house and course and they really transform it for the Masters. It's amazing what they do and how the course is groomed. It's actually closed for a number of weeks to get it ready."
Over the next 10 months leading up to a Feb. 3, 2011 opening round she'll work closely with a contact inside the European tour and Chris Myers, Doha Golf Club general manager and tournament director.
"I'm usually a little nervous, but with this I can't wait to begin," Dalton says. "I'm really surprising myself."
So what do you do when the hankering for a round hits on a Friday afternoon. Hit the desert.
About an hour outside Doha are a few courses without any fairways and greens.
"You stand on an elevated tee box which is just a piece of wood and concrete. If your drive is in the fairway, you hit off an artificial turf mat, but if you're off the fairway you have to hit from the sand."
Your landing area, a flat packed mound of earth, is called "the brown" instead of the green.