There are six of us standing behind the tee box on the 17th hole
of the Seaview Resort's Bay Course in Absecon, N.J. The flag is
about 120 yards away, on the left side of the green, 20 feet
behind a large sand trap. We are firing wedges, nine-irons,
eight-irons and even a seven-wood or two into the early-morning
mist, the idea being for one of us to hit the ball into the cup
off the tee. Technically, of course, it would not count as a
hole in one, because regulation aces have to be scored during
regulation rounds. There is the story of one Lew Cullum of
Largo, Fla., who in 1966 hit his tee shot into the lake on the
145-yard 11th hole at Yacht Club Estates Golf Club, near St.
Petersburg, and followed it by depositing three more tee shots
in the same place. His fifth shot, however, found the cup, thus
earning him a 9 on the hole.
But I'm not expecting an ace anyway. Although two members of my
group--Seaview head pro Matt Gillogly and assistant pro Andrew
Rogers--each have had a hole in one (though not on the Bay
17th), I am positive it will not happen over the three-hour
period set aside for our seemingly pointless endeavor. I have
nothing to prove with this hole-in-one experiment except that I
am not hole-in-one lucky. I've never gotten a hole in one, I
never expect to, and I've never played a round in a group with
anybody who did get one.
But I'm convinced there is a parallel universe out there, one in
which holes in one are as common as mulligans: Hole in One
World. Aces reported to Golf Digest, the hole-in-one
clearinghouse since 1952 (the year the magazine began sending
out report forms to every clubhouse in the country), range from
about 38,000 to 42,000 per year. Newspapers regularly run
reports of 80-year-old grandmothers and 10-year-old grandsons
who "aced the 110-yard 12th with a three-wood." A number of
insurance agencies make good money by providing hole-in-one
insurance to tournaments in which cash prizes, automobiles, golf
vacations or, in the case of the National Funeral Directors
Association tournament, a casket is given away for aces. Indeed,
there is nothing in sports that seems at once so remarkable and
yet so pedestrian as the hole in one.
There's even one man who makes a living off his hole-in-one
reputation: Mancil Davis, a fast-talking, wisecracking former
club pro, who is now the director of event management for the
National Hole In One Association. Davis, 42, played junior golf
in Texas against Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite and, in 1975, briefly
tried the PGA Tour. He quit because, he says, "my caddie made
more money than I did." Davis can't drive and can't putt, but
what he can do is find the hole from the tee. The
self-proclaimed King of Aces puts his hole-in-one total at 50,
and that does not include, he says, the 10 or so he has made at
corporate outings, in which he stays at one par-3 and fires tee
shots at the flag all day, in much the same way my companions
and I are doing right now. Davis's career path was set early. He
had eight aces in 1966, when he was only 12, and earned an
appearance on I've Got a Secret, where he stumped the formidable
mixed foursome of Bill Cullen, Henry Morgan, Bess Myerson and
June 16, 1996
But no matter how I analyze it, 50 holes in one by one man (and
that's not even the record; more on that later)--not to mention
40,000 per year in a country that produces more duffers than
dentists--seems like an unnatural conquest of the odds, which,
by the way, are about 13,500 to 1 for an amateur golfer, about
half that for a club pro and about 3,500 to 1 for a touring pro.
Now, there are hole-in-one parameters. For an ace to be
official, it must be witnessed by at least one person willing to
sign the scorecard and must be scored on a golf course with no
more than six par-3s. But there's a lot of gray area. Touring
pros usually count only the holes in one that they score in
competition--there have been 26 in 38 men's and women's Tour
events so far this season--yet among the 46 holes in one
credited to Art Wall Jr., the hole-in-one king of Tour golfers,
are many that he scored in casual play at his home course in
As for the thousands and thousands of aces by amateurs, well,
let's think about it. In golf a 95 becomes an 89 with a few
conceded putts; a snowman becomes a 5 if those white stakes near
the woods are considered decorative landscaping and not
out-of-bounds markers. Is there any reason to believe that
hole-in-one claims are an island of probity in this confounding
game, in which otherwise honest souls routinely compromise their
integrity over a $2 Nassau? Tom Weiskopf, who has made 16 aces
(in both practice and competitive rounds), says there were
snickers about Wall's holes in one even among the pros. "I don't
care if you're standing on the same 90-yard hole, hitting a
wedge into a green shaped like a punch bowl," says Weiskopf.
"Thirty or 40 aces is a helluva lot."
Still, there's no doubt that some golfers just seem to have a
knack for aces. Davis says that psychologists have done tests on
him and found that "my brain waves are different, much more
positive, when I'm hitting a six-iron on a par-3 tee than when
I'm hitting a six-iron from the fairway." Well, it figures that
brain waves would be involved when you hit a ball that measures
at least 1.68 inches in diameter into a hole that measures 4.25
inches in diameter from distances of 100 to 496 yards. (Oh, yes,
there has been a 496-yard ace; more on that later, too.) Or, as
Mac O'Grady, the Tour's only certifiable spaceman, once said: "A
hole in one is amazing when you think of the different universes
this white mass of molecules has to pass through on its way to
I ask my hole-in-one partners if they think much about brain
waves or different universes when they're on a par-3. "Right now
I'm thinking about blisters," says my friend Bob Fink as he hits
his 50th shot of the morning. It passes through several
universes before landing in a sandy one in front of the green.
The first hole in one, according to The Golfer's Handbook, a
British publication, was scored by one of the sport's earliest
notables, "Young" Tom Morris, in the first round of the 1868
British Open. It happened on the 8th hole at Prestwick in
Scotland, which, with classic British precision, was measured at
166 yards, four inches. In Prestwick, a volume that sits among
thousands in the library of the U.S. Golf Association in Far
Hills, N.J., Morris's scorecard from that round is reproduced.
It bears a single vertical slash at number 8. Rounds were 12
holes in those days--boy, there's an idea that deserves
reconsideration--and Morris went 50-55-52 to win the Open.
It's impossible to say how common holes in one were before the
turn of the century. There was no Golf Digest, after all, and
the Brits have never celebrated the ace as much as Americans
have. During a practice round at Scotland's Carnoustie the week
before the 1975 British Open, Weiskopf was amazed when his
windblown ace at number 8 received so little reaction from the
"Didn't you see my ball go in?" he asked two elderly Scots who
were camped at the back of the green on sit sticks.
"Aye, laddie," said one.
"And you didn't even clap?" said Weiskopf.
"Boot laddie," said the other, "it didn't coont now, did it?"
Weiskopf's 16 career aces are 16 more than the immortal Bobby
Jones scored, at least according to the record books. However,
Jones, who died in 1971, said he had two unofficial holes in
one, the first on the 11th at East Lake in Atlanta and the other
at the Augusta Country Club, not to be confused with Augusta
National, which he cofounded. Jones also made a number of eagles
and double eagles. "All these things, of course, were nothing
but luck," he wrote more than 30 years ago to Ian Woolridge of
the London Daily Mail. "I got a bigger kick when the ball
That sounds like something Ben Hogan, who had four holes in one
(none in competition) during his legendary career, would say. "I
would've had more," Hogan once said, "but I rarely aimed at the
flag. I aimed at the spot where I had the best birdie
opportunity." The best Hogan hole-in-one story is from the 1947
Masters, at which he was paired with Claude Harmon during a
practice round. On the celebrated 145-yard 12th, Harmon knocked
his tee shot into the cup. As the crowd cheered wildly, Hogan
remained stoic and put his tee shot eight feet from the cup. The
roar for Harmon's feat increased as the players approached the
green, but Hogan still said nothing. When Harmon lifted his ball
from the cup, there was another cheer. Hogan studied his line.
After he had made the putt for a birdie, and after he had hit
his drive on 13, Hogan finally spoke.
"You know back there on the 12th hole...."
"Yes?" said Harmon.
"I've been thinking. I believe that's the first time I ever
birdied that hole."
Even friendly pros, aware of the unwashed masses of double-digit
handicappers who have holes in one, don't like to dwell on the
ace. "I mean, some people skull it along the ground and get one,
don't they?" says Laura Davies, a dominant LPGA player.
Davis Love III, who like Davies has made only two holes in one,
remembers sitting at Kapalua with an amateur golfer after Fred
Couples scored the only hole in one of his career a few years
ago. "I can't believe Freddy's had only one," the amateur said.
"Well, how many have you had?" Love asked.
"Nineteen," the guy answered.
"Nineteen!" Love exclaimed. "Jeez, who keeps track of that for
That's the question, isn't it?
It's unlikely that a pro standing on the tee is thinking about a
hole in one, although the TV mikes picked up Nick Faldo's famous
"called shot" in the 1993 Ryder Cup at The Belfry in Sutton
Coldfield, England. "This would be a good time to hole one,"
said Faldo right before hitting a six-iron into the cup at the
14th to help him halve his match with Paul Azinger. Then again,
Mancil Davis says he always aims directly at the hole on a
par-3. His only other tip is not to use a tee. "Beyond that, if
you want me to explain why I have 50," says Davis, "I plumb
cain't." Others plumb cain't either. The ace is golf's parlor
trick, and to probe serious-minded golfers about it is like
asking Yo-Yo Ma if he plays She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain.
Double eagles--now that's a fun subject for the pros. "I get
much more excited about a double eagle, because, man, that's
three shots [under par]," says John Daly. He has only three
aces, but he has five double eagles. Making a double eagle
almost always involves following a monster drive with a monster
fairway wood, which accounts for the fact that only 200 to 250
double eagles are recorded each year. (The King of Aces,
incidentally, says he has brain-waved 10 double eagles into the
cup too.) But precisely because they're so rare, double eagles
lack the populist allure, the tantalizing attainability, the
catch-lightning-in-a-bottle magic of the hole in one.
Within a three-hour span during the second round of the 1989
U.S. Open, Doug Weaver, Mark Wiebe, Jerry Pate and Nick Price
all aced the 167-yard 6th hole at Oak Hill Country Club in
Rochester, N.Y. The odds of that happening, according to USGA
number crunchers, were 2.4 million to 1. Before our morning
session at Seaview, Gillogly and Rogers figured that it would
take about 250 to 300 balls for one of us--more likely, one of
them--to get an ace. "In this kind of situation, it's like
mortar practice," says Gillogly. "It takes awhile to get the
coordinates, but after that, you should be able to do it." I
don't agree. It's not going to happen as long as I am here. As I
said, I'm not hole-in-one lucky.
The morning rolls on. Two hours, 2 1/2 hours. Five hundred
balls, 700 balls. Gillogly hits the pin on the fly, and the ball
comes down about 18 inches behind the hole. There is a
five-minute span in which Rogers puts a half-dozen drives within
the leather. But none drops. I start one toward the pin and
shout, absurdly, "Get in the hole!" It gets within three feet.
No doubt I would've missed the birdie putt.
"I got an idea," says Joe Cirigliano, one of my buddies. "Let's
try it blindfolded." We all take a crack at swinging with our
eyes closed. Rogers actually finds the green. Elwood Williams, a
friend and the final member of our sixsome, finds the rain
shelter, which is located behind a clump of trees just to the
left of the tee.
Cirigliano's idea is not so crazy, though. In 1970 Charlie
Boswell, the famous blind champion, aced the 141-yard 14th at
Vestavia Country Club in Birmingham with a six-iron. And in May
1994 an 82-year-old gentleman named Philip Lopiano used a
five-wood to ace the 136-yard 17th hole at Glen Brook Country
Club in Stroudsburg, Pa., even though a condition known as
macular degeneration has left him nearly blind. "I can see the
ball when I look down on it directly," says Lopiano, "but I
can't see it once I hit it." As he lined up his tee shot on 17,
one of his playing partners, Ray Cook, directed him toward the
green and told him that the pin was set on the left side, just
behind a trap.
"It went in!" exclaimed Cook after Lopiano tagged the yellow
ball he uses to increase his chances of seeing it.
"In the trap?" asked Lopiano.
"In the hole!" said Cook.
The story went out on the AP wire, and Lopiano, who had two
previous aces, heard from golfers all over the world. "I even
did a radio interview from Japan, and they sent me one of those
screens that, you know, people stand behind when they're
changing clothes," says Lopiano. "It's a beautiful thing."
I wondered to what extent the joy of scoring a hole in one was
moderated by not being able to see it go in the hole. "Well,
when I go to the hospital for my eyes, I see dozens of children
who will never see," says Lopiano, "so I'm sure not going to
complain about not seeing a hole in one."
Holes in one have been scored on drives that bounced off trees
and bridges, off rakes and sprinklers, off frozen ponds, off
wires strung above the greens and snow fences set up behind
them, off farm implements and farm animals. Last March, while
playing the Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club course in Suffolk,
England, Neville Rowlandson, 56, skulled his tee shot at number
1 along the ground. It struck a marker in front of the tee,
caromed to the right, traveled 25 yards, struck the pin on the
18th green and dropped into the cup. Golf World called the
miracle shot a "course in one."
Holes in one have been scored by one-armed golfers and golfers
in wheelchairs, by righthanded golfers hitting lefty, by
lefthanded golfers hitting righty, by joking golfers hitting
from their knees, by golfers too drunk to know what they had
done. Davis says he once hit a three-iron off the tee and
watched it go dead right, strike a small mesquite tree ("Hitting
a tree in west Texas is stranger than getting a hole in one,"
says the King), kick left, hit a sprinkler and roll in the hole.
"Just no rhyme nor reason for that kinda thing," Davis drawls.
There are countless tales of husbands and wives acing the same
hole, of brothers and sisters acing different holes on different
courses on the same day, of mothers and daughters acing the same
hole one year apart. (And they say the family structure has
disintegrated!) You want parallelism? During the Skins Game on
Nov. 29, 1987, Lee Trevino aced the 17th at PGA West in La
Quinta, Calif. (it was only his second hole in one, and he has
had only one since), to win $175,000. Amazingly, that same week
another Lee Trevino, a female amateur and no relation, aced the
119-yard 13th at Caloosa Golf and Country Club in Sun City
Two years ago a 73-year-old golfer named Eric Johnson achieved a
lifetime dream by scoring an ace at the Queen's Park Golf Club
in Southland, New Zealand. He died a few hours later. A fellow
named Bill Higginbotham of Terre Haute, Ind., didn't have to
wait nearly that long for his ace. One March day in 1963
Higginbotham, then 25, and his buddy Jerry Rice were sitting in
Bill Griffith's barbershop when Rice and Griffith decided to
play nine holes at nearby Linton Municipal. Higginbotham tagged
along and was coaxed into giving the game a try. He picked up a
borrowed seven-iron, knocked his tee shot on number 1 into a
hill near the green and watched it bounce a few times and roll
into the cup. It was not only the first hole of golf he ever
played; it was the first time he ever took a swing.
Almost as lucky as Higginbotham was one David Terpoilli of West
Norristown, Pa., who, during an October 1994 corporate outing at
Whitemarsh Country Club, fired a 123-over 193 that included an
ace on the 128-yard 16th. Here was Terpoilli's back nine:
9-21-9-16-11-13-1-11-9-100. "I haven't picked up a club since,"
says Terpoilli. "How could I ever top that?"
Speaking of topping, consider the peculiar tale of Charles
Mellanakos and John Bariahtaris at the Nabnasset Lake (Mass.)
Country Club in 1960. At the 125-yard 2nd, Mellanakos hit his
tee shot into the cup. Bariahtaris then did the same, except
that his ball bounced out because it hit Mellanakos's ball.
That's no weirder than what happened to Dean Colbert and his
brother Ken on the 9th hole at River View Golf Course in Santa
Ana, Calif., in 1977. Dean left his ball a few inches from the
hole. Ken hit next, and his well-struck drive nudged Dean's ball
into the cup. According to match-play rules in effect at the
time, Dean could play the ball where it stopped or replace it.
Guess which he chose. That rule was changed in 1984, and now, in
stroke and match play, the ball must be replaced.
One amateur, Joe Lucius, has made a record 13 aces at one hole,
the 15th at the Mohawk Golf Club in Tiffin, Ohio; there's even a
plaque at the tee to commemorate the feat. But my partners and I
are 800 balls into our experiment at Seaview's 17th, and we have
no holes in one. I am prepared for this, but it's starting to
frustrate the pros, who are now trying to "ugly in" an ace,
hitting cut nine-irons and even pounding eight-irons into the
bank in front of the green to get a roll. It shouldn't be this
hard, they believe. Sam Snead claims to have made a hole in one
with every club except the putter. That contrasts with the
experience of Faldo, who scored all five of his aces with a
six-iron, and LPGA veteran Debbie Massey, who made her six with
If Larry Nishi were at the tee with us, I bet we would have a
hole in one. Two summers ago at the Mid-Pacific Country Club of
Honolulu, the 69-year-old Nishi hit a five-iron into the cup on
the 145-yard 4th hole. Two holes later, on the 186-yard,
into-the-wind 6th, Nishi pulled out a five-wood and holed out
again. "Funny thing is," says Nishi, a 14 handicapper who had
two previous aces, "I clipped the pin on 11, the next par-3."
Nishi came out ahead on the deal, incidentally: The traditional
buy-for-the-house punishment for aces cost him about $350, but
he collected a $500 pro-shop gift certificate from a fund to
which members at Mid-Pacific kick in $2 each. Or maybe we need
Idaho State golfer Shane Langstaff. On the second day of
practice two years ago, Langstaff, who is from Columbus, Mont.,
used an eight-iron to ace the 162-yard 2nd hole at the Riverside
Golf Course in Pocatello. Shortly afterward he pulled out a
wedge and aced the 147-yard 4th. After the round Langstaff
bought $5 worth of state lottery tickets. He didn't win.
Holes in one have been hit by mechanical golfers, such as the
USGA's Iron Byron (five in 1985) and Ping's Pingman (one in
1993), and by mechanical crooners, such as Perry Como and Vic
Damone. Bing Crosby scored an ace, and so did Alice Cooper,
without face paint. Bob Hope has six holes in one; that's five
more than Couples.
On May 15, 1960, Gummo Marx used a three-iron to ace the
155-yard 2nd at Tamarisk Country Club in Palm Springs, Calif., a
feat witnessed by his brothers Harpo and Zeppo. The mind reels
at what that scene might have been: Harpo dancing around and
waving that silly hat while Gummo shakes his head and smiles.
Joe DiMaggio donated a TV set as a hole-in-one prize at a 1966
tournament at the Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica, Calif.,
and then hit an eight-iron into the cup on the 140-yard 15th for
the only ace of the competition. There is no report on whether
he reclaimed the set.
Though politicians are most frequently seen conking spectators
in the head with right-angle duck hooks, several have had holes
in one. The Sept. 5, 1961, issue of Golf Digest includes the
Official Hole-in-One Clearinghouse Application Form filled out
and sent in by Richard Nixon after he aced the 2nd hole at the
Bel Air Country Club on Sept. 4. Age: 44. Address: Los Angeles.
Handicap: 18. Right-handed. Spalding club, five-iron; Spalding
ball. Nixon later called it "the greatest thrill in my
life--even better than being elected." Can't you just see the
Trickster striding up the fairway in a pair of garish red pants,
an awkward grin on his face, waving to or saluting an imaginary
crowd and thinking, Take that, JFK! Nixon finished with a 91
that day and said he lost three bucks. Six-and-a-half years
later, Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine, had a hole in one at the
153-yard 11th hole at Webhannet Golf Club in Kennebunk Beach, a
course later played by President George Bush. Muskie's ace was
hardly a harbinger of political luck: Eight months later he and
Hubert Humphrey lost the presidential election to Nixon and
One of the most talented golfer-politicos, John F. Kennedy, was
actually relieved once when he didn't get a hole in one. Playing
at Cypress Point in California shortly before the 1960 election
to succeed Dwight Eisenhower, an avid golfer, JFK sent a
seven-iron toward the pin on the 143-yard 15th. "Go in! Go in!"
yelled one of his playing partners, Paul B. Fay Jr., later
undersecretary of the Navy. Kennedy had "a look of horror on his
face," says Fay. The ball hit the pin and kicked to the side,
stopping about six inches from the cup, and Kennedy breathed a
sigh of relief. "If that ball had gone into that hole," Kennedy
told Fay, "in less than an hour the word would be out to the
nation that another golfer was trying to get in the White House."
Less secretive about his golfing prowess is Kim Jong Il,
president of North Korea. In October '94 Kim scored five aces in
a round at the Pyongyang Golf Club en route to a, ahem, 38-under
34. That obliterated the previous low round of 59, shot by Al
Geiberger at the Memphis Classic in 1977 and Chip Beck at the
'91 Las Vegas Invitational. That was the report, anyway, from
Pyongyang pro Park Young Nam, who added, "Dear Leader comrade
general Kim Jong Il, whom I respect from the bottom of my heart,
is an excellent golfer." We should say so. Incidentally,
according to his biography Kim, 54, also can produce bumper rice
crops at will, so this golf thing is kind of a sideline.
Far more interesting are the hole-in-one tales of unknowns,
those whom Fate tapped on the shoulder and put on Golf Digest's
alltime hole-in-one list. Four names in particular intrigued me:
Rose Montgomery, the oldest woman to score a hole in one; Robert
Mitera, the man with the longest straightaway hole in one in
history; Norman Manley, who has the alltime record number of
holes in one (59); and Dr. Joseph Boydstone, who scored three
aces in one round and finished one incredible year with 11.
The Rose Montgomery story is bittersweet. On June 2, 1992,
Montgomery pulled out a club, probably a five-wood, and knocked
her drive on the 100-yard 7th hole at Canyon Country Club in
Palm Springs into the cup for her 10th career ace. She was 96
years old. "There's no doubt it happened," says Jack Koennecker,
golf director emeritus at the club, where Montgomery frequently
won the women's championship. "Everybody around the club heard
about it right away." Koennecker speaks approvingly of
Montgomery's competitiveness and determination. "Rose used to
spit on her gloves and say, 'Let's get after it,'" he says.
"Some people thought that was kind of crude. But I thought it
was great. She was one of the few women I ever heard of who shot
her age." Indeed, on the day she recorded that 10th ace,
Montgomery shot a 92. Shortly after that historic round,
however, she became ill, and last year she died.
On Oct. 7, 1965, Mitera, a Creighton University golfer, stepped
to the tee at the 447-yard 10th hole at the appropriately named
Miracle Hills Golf Club in Omaha. It was an extremely blustery
day, and the wind was behind him. Mitera let it rip. The ball
got into the wind, landed near the green, bounced a few times
and presumably rolled into the hole, though no one saw it do so.
That broke the previous long-ball record on a straightaway hole
by 20 yards. (The record on a dogleg is a 496-yard ace by Shaun
Lynch of Devon, England, on the 17th at the Teign Valley Club in
Christow, England, last year.)
I wondered how this singular feat had sat with Mitera over the
years and whether it had propelled him to a successful amateur
career. After numerous phone calls to Omaha, I finally located
him. "What do you want with me?" he asked impatiently.
"I'd like to talk about your hole in one," I said.
"I don't want to," said Mitera. "Goodbye." And he hung up.
"Yes, I've been called a liar many times," says Norman Manley,
who claims he, not Mancil Davis, is the real King of Aces.
Well, you won't hear him called a liar here. No one but Manley
can say whether he truly has 59 holes in one, amassed over 30
years on courses from Lake Tahoe to Mexico and all marked down
in a book he keeps at his home in Long Beach, Calif. But does it
not strain credulity that Manley, a talented amateur to be sure
(his handicap in his prime ranged between six and eight, and he
was a seven-time champion at Del Valle Country Club in Saugus,
Calif.) but no Hogan, put it into the cup from the tee 59 times?
And, on one record-breaking occasion--Aug. 4, 1964--did it on
consecutive par-4s at Del Valle?
"I've always been both lucky and good in sports," says Manley,
73, who played two or three times a week despite punching a
clock as an aeronautics worker and a movie projectionist.
"Before I knew how to play, I went to take a lesson, and the pro
told me, 'You don't need it. You're a natural.' Anything I did
in sports I was good at.
"Witnesses? Well, a friend who died of cancer, Les Elliott, saw
16 of my holes in one."
Manley's hole-in-one days may be over. He's just now getting
back to the game after a series of painful operations that have
left him with two artificial knees, one artificial hip and, he
says, "a ruined swing." And one has the feeling that his record
has been a mixed blessing. He's dealt with skepticism and
downright hostility; he's never won a red cent on his aces; and
he's never gotten, he believes, proper credit.
"The PGA won't recognize me, because I'm an amateur," he
complains. "It's always, 'Mancil Davis, King of Aces.' Well, I'm
the real king. I know it, and the people who played with me know
Well, there are no ace kings in our group. We have hit 999 balls
at the blasted number 17 stick. We have a couple of Jimmies, our
term for drives that have sliced onto heavily traveled Jimmie
Leeds Road, which runs along the course. (We've heard no
screeching of tires.) And we have a couple of Roberts, our term
for misstruck drives that have threatened the health and welfare
of Robert Clark, a Seaview intern who has been assigned the
mind-numbing task of green repair, ball collection, trap raking
and, if necessary, ace witnessing. It has not been necessary.
"This is it," says Gillogly as he addresses number 1,000. He
reaches over and touches fingers with Rogers for luck. His wedge
shot is perfect. Just not perfect enough.
"If Joe Boydstone were here," I tell the group, "I bet we
would've gotten one."
They look at me in confusion.
Around his hometown of Bakersfield, Calif., Doc Boydstone, the
former physician for Kern County Jail, has a bit of a, well,
reputation. "He's a phony," says Babe Lazane, the retired pro at
Bakersfield Country Club, where Boydstone claims to have holed
out a few times during his unbelievable 11-ace year of '62. "I
used to come in in the morning, and there would be a scorecard
from Boydstone shoved under the door with a 1 circled, like he
got a hole in one at 6 a.m. Hell, I threw away 40 holes in one
he turned in." But could Boydstone play? "Ah, he couldn't hit it
from here to there," scoffs Lazane. Obviously Lazane is not from
the Park Young Nam school of golf-pro diplomacy.
In 1967 Larry Press, then sports editor at The Bakersfield
Californian, got Boydstone's hole-in-one feats deleted from The
World Almanac. "There were just too many reports that the holes
in one were bogus," says Press, now a Californian columnist. "It
became such a joke that one day there was a message for
Boydstone tacked to the bulletin board at the country club that
read DR. BOYDSTONE--PLEASE CALL ED SULLIVAN. It was a cruel
joke, I guess, but that's how people felt about his alleged
Still, Boydstone's feats earned him a two-page feature and large
photo in the February 1963 issue of Golf Digest. The hole-in-one
bible referred to him as "the deeply-tanned, mustachioed
Bakersfield sharpshooter," and his two alleged records--three
aces in one round and 11 in one year--are still on the
magazine's All-Time Holes-in-One list. Were they possible?
"I'm not going to say yes or no for sure," says Eddie Nowak, who
was owner and pro at the Bakersfield Public Golf Course, where
Boydstone supposedly had the ace hat-trick round. "I took Joe
down to a pro-am around L.A. one time and, well, I'm not sure he
even put it on the green on any of the par-3s. He was maybe an
85 shooter on his good days. He was also, you know, a great
"That's right," says Nowak. "He could put you under in about 10
seconds. I remember a friend of my son's stuttered real bad, and
Boydstone hypnotized him out of stuttering. It worked for a few
months. So, I don't know, maybe he hypnotized some of his
playing partners into thinking he got all those holes in one.
That's one theory. Joe really played it to the hilt, though. One
day he called me up and told me to meet him downtown. He had
bought this trophy--I swear, it was taller than me--and he had
somebody take a picture of me presenting it to him as the
On March 11, 1972, Boydstone and five friends from Bakersfield
were on a fishing trip in Morro Bay on California's central
coast, near Hearst Castle at San Simeon. Their 28-foot cabin
cruiser ran aground and capsized in heavy morning fog. Three
survived. Boydstone and two others drowned.
The story was big news in Bakersfield, and the Californian ran
several articles about it. One noted the following: "Dr.
Boydstone was once acclaimed the golf world's 'hole-in-one
champion.'" May he rest in peace.