By Stu­art McLean, Editor

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - 11/15 Behind The Scenes -

olf is full of ex­tra­or­di­nary hap­pen­ings, and a rare event oc­curred at West­lake GC in Cape Town in Septem­ber that is worth record­ing at a time when the game, and th­ese pages, is in need of pos­i­tive news.

There was a shot­gun start in the re­gional event of the Mercedes-Benz Ladies Clas­sic.The group wait­ing to tee o on the par-3 17th at 12 noon weren’t sure who should go rst, so Mow­bray mem­ber Sherin Rawl­ins vol­un­teered. A 28-hand­i­cap, she took out her driver, swung with con­vic­tion, and the shot headed for the green.The ball van­ished from sight once it landed on the un­du­lat­ing green, and only peo­ple stand­ing next to the green saw it fall in the hole. Sherin wouldn’t be­lieve her good for­tune un­til she ac­tu­ally saw the ball for her­self. And then, as the photo shows, the cel­e­bra­tions be­gan.

But the story gets bet­ter.The peo­ple next to the green were not there by chance. They were sta­tioned on the hole for au­dit­ing pur­poses.There was a prize for a hole-in-one on 17 that day: a R650 000 two-door Mercedes-Benz 250SLK sports coupe!

The odds on the av­er­age golfer hav­ing a hole-in-one are 12 000-to-one, so how many have had a hole-in-one in South Africa with the rst tee shot of their round? In fact, I nd out, it’s a com­mon oc­cur­rence.This leads to an­other story.There have been 20 aces on the open­ing hole, a short par 3, at Sim­bithi, the ex­ec­u­tive Par-60 course on the KZN North Coast. All came with the

rst shot of the day. But get this: six of them were by “golfers” play­ing the very rst round of their lives! And, yes, am­a­teurs are al­lowed to ac­cept

Ghole-in-one prizes of this enor­mous value (it’s un­lim­ited), the pro­viso be­ing that the hole-in-one must oc­cur dur­ing a round of golf and be in­ci­den­tal to that round. Con­tests con­ducted other than on a golf course do not qual­ify un­der this pro­vi­sion.

The R&A ef­fected this change in Jan­uary, 2012, when they car­ried out a fun­da­men­tal re­view of the Rules of Am­a­teur Sta­tus. Pre­vi­ously, a hole-in­one prize was sub­ject to the same re­stric­tions as that for a longest drive or near­est the pin. A club golfer win­ning a car and driv­ing o with it would have had to for­feit his or her am­a­teur sta­tus and be­come a pro. It hap­pened of­ten, and for lesser-priced items like a set of golf clubs.

Why was this rule changed? It lies in the very na­ture of the hole-in-one. Even though there is an el­e­ment of skill at­tached to hav­ing one, it is largely down to luck. Who will ever for­get James Kingston’s tee shot in the 2002 Al­fred Dun­hill Cham­pi­onship when it was played at Houghton?You can view it on YouTube. His pulled tee shot on the old 15th struck trees well to the left of the green, and bounced back down a slope, run­ning into the hole. He also won a sports car on that oc­ca­sion.

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