June 25, 2010
World Golf Hall of Famer Gary Player is often quoted as saying “The harder I practice, the luckier I get.” With a reported 18 holes-in-one during a professional career that began in 1953, Player may have a point.
Devon Peterson is nearing the completion of his first decade at the head golf professional at Shawnee Country Club, and still has a ways to go to match Player’s aces. However, he is moving closer to that target.
Peterson runs a season-long competition at Shawnee in which he plays a round with three amateurs. The team posts its score in both gross and net categories. The winners and second place finishers then qualify to play in a very pleasant pro-am event near the end of the golf season.
On Sunday morning, June 20, Peterson was in the middle of one of these pro-am preliminary rounds, when he came to the par-3 13th hole. From the white tees, the hole sat 99 yards away, on the crest of a small ridge that splits the lower half of the green.
Here’s how Peterson described it: “I used my gap wedge, and set up on the left side of the tee box to open up my view of the hole. I thought I’d be able to put the ball within three feet of the hole. As it took off and I looked up, I thought, ‘that’s going to be within two feet’. As it started coming down toward the hole, I thought, ‘that’s going to be within a foot’. As it landed, I said to myself, ‘that’s going in,’ and it did. It took one bounce and went right into the cup.”
This was Peterson’s seventh official par-3 eagle in his career, but only his first such ace at Shawnee. “I had another one here a while ago, but I was playing by myself that day, and no one else saw it,” he grinned.
When I asked how many other unofficial aces he made, Peterson decided to tell me about his favorite one, which happened when he was a young pro on a private course in New Jersey.
The course was closed that day, in honor of Sonny Fraser, a local amateur standout. Peterson and a member were playing gin in the locker room, when one of the owners came in. He told them they could go out and play a round, but they should start on the back nine.
Peterson said the twosome agreed to their usual wager: a nice piece of change for each birdie, and four times that amount for any holes-in-one, along with a few other side bets.
“I parred the tenth hole, then I birdied the eleventh and twelfth hole, and then I made a hole-in-one on the next hole. At that point, the member looked at me and said, “I’ll pay up the money, but now you’re going to drive me back to the clubhouse. I said, “You can’t stop now,” but he insisted. “And so, that’s one of my holes-in-one that didn’t count.”
Because this is a family-friendly newspaper, that quote has been cleaned up quite a bit for publication. Experienced golfers can fill in the obvious blanks.
The USGA doesn’t actually have a formal rule on what “qualifies” as a valid hole-in-one. However, the rules folks have a few recommendations for local club committees that make a lot of sense.
It should take place during at least a nine-hole round, but a nine-hole match that ends early will count. Practice rounds with another witness are okay, but not if the person making the ace is using more than one ball per hole in practice. An ace during a full scramble format event counts.
Temporary tees or greens are okay, but may affect the yardage noted on the certificate. Finally, the score should be “attested by someone acceptable to the Committee.”
That last suggestion could be a whole lot of fun to administer.