The chances of making a hole-in-one are better than winning the Powerball lottery, but the odds against scoring an ace nevertheless are long. One “expert” says 12,500 to 1.
What, then, are the chances a golfer will make an ace on the same course the only two times he plays there?
Luther Swicegood can’t calculate the odds, but he scored holes-in-one the only two times he played Willbrook Plantation at Pawleys Island – a feat worthy of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Swicegood, a retired Lutheran pastor, first struck at Willbrook on the 17th hole – in 1992. He returned to the course for the first time since to compete in the recent South Carolina Pastors Golf Association’s tournament and this time holed his tee shot on No. 4.
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“Pitching wedge, 110 yards,” the 80-year-old Swicegood said in describing the latest of his seven career holes-in-one. “The ball landed about three feet from the cup and rolled straight in. I usually don’t hit a wedge that far, but I had some extra adrenaline that day.”
Swicegood started playing the game with his dad and joined the Newberry College team in 1955 for a great reason: “We got to play the country club course four times a week.”
He pastored churches in Columbia, Greenville and North Myrtle Beach. He “heard God calling” with each change and said with a chuckle, “My friends claim I went to Greenville for access to Chanticleer” – Greenville Country Club’s highly acclaimed course – “and to the beach for all those great courses.”
His handicap has been as low as 4, and hovers in the 9-10 range today. He won the Pastors Golf Association’s individual title three times, and now, he said, “I like to shoot my age.”
One of his parishioners in Greenville, a Bi-Lo executive, opened doors for him to play some of the game’s most famous courses. Companies seeking to stock the grocery chain’s stores with their products would provide golf outings, and the executive took Swicegood on some journeys.
“Pine Valley, Augusta National, Torrey Pines, Medinah,” he said. “A lot of great courses.”
Swicegood talked about his aces and said, “Luck obviously plays a role.” But as Phil Mickelson told a writer in search of his first hole-in-one, “Try hitting it close to the hole.”
Swicegood does that – and it’s not by accident. He lives near Lexington Medical Center and he has created a practice area that he uses daily. In addition, he’s a ranger at Indian Trail in Batesburg, a licensed scuba diver who has retrieved clubs and balls from lakes – “about 5,000 balls on one course,” he said – and does volunteer work. Of course, he plays, too.
“I love the game,” he said.
He loves golf so much that getting hit in the face at close range with a wayward shot could not end his round. The day after his last ace at Willbrook, the tournament moved to the River Club, and a member of his group shanked a sand shot.
“Hit me right there,” Swicegood said, pointing to a bruise below his left eye. “I went down and bled through my nose, but I didn’t need stitches. We got the bleeding stopped and I was all right.”
He did encounter one problem: as he bent over to putt, “some blood dripped onto the ball.”
That’s a small price to pay, he said, for the opportunity to play the game he loves.
Patriots Golf Day
Patriots Golf Day, the signature fundraising event for the Folds of Honor foundation, will be held at courses around the country beginning Friday and continuing through Labor Day.
In its 10 years, the program has raised more than $22 million and provided more than 16,000 scholarships to spouses and children of America’s fallen or disabled service members.
Allen Wronowski, former president of the PGA of America and now director of golf development and relations for the Folds of Honor, estimated that more than 3,000 courses will participate this year.
“When (founder) Major Dan Rooney talked to us at the PGA convention, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room, and we agreed, ‘This is something the PGA needs to do,’ ” Wronowski said during the PGA Championship.
Typically, participating clubs add $1 to green fees over the Labor Day weekend for the Folds of Honor.
Walter Todd teamed with nephew Thomas Todd III to capture the SCGA’s Mid-Amateur Four-Ball title at Preswick CC in Myrtle Beach. This is Walter Todd’s second “family” championship of the year; he and son Neil won the Father-Son title in June.