John Ponter had several excuses ready, including a few of the classics – if he needed them.
He hadn’t played golf all year - he typically plays only a few times per year. He was using a new set of TaylorMade clubs for the first time. He’d never played the course.
When he woke up that morning, he didn’t even know if he’d be able to find a tee time.
Yet the 53-year-old from Baden, Pa., defied staggering odds March 19 to make two holes-in-one in a single round at Oyster Bay Golf Links.
“It was unbelievable,” said Ponter, who came to the Grand Strand with friends for a week-long golf smorgasbord. “It was my second golf trip to Myrtle Beach. My expectations weren’t high. I bought a few dozen refurbished golf balls thinking I’d hit them into lakes.”
Starting on the back nine, Ponter aced No. 15, which played 109 yards from the white tees, with a 9-iron. He later aced the 135-yard No. 6 with an 8-iron. Ponter said both pins were placed in the middle of the green.
At the windy 15th, Ponter admitted he was concerned merely with carrying the lake that surrounds the green. He had not played well since arriving three days earlier.
“Both of the shots were right at the pin, took a few bounces and rolled in,” said Ponter, who had no previous aces. “It was very surreal. When I made the second one, I thought, ‘Nobody’s going to believe this.’”
Citing a source, Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday estimated the odds at 1 in 67 million. In 2010, Golf Digest listed the odds of an amateur making two aces in one round at 1 in 64 million.
But considering Ponter’s potential excuses, the odds were probably much greater.
Tee times at Oyster Bay that morning had been fully booked until a cancelation a few minutes before Ponter’s group called. The weather, cool and wet the previous few days, was mild and sunny.
Despite hitting two perfect shots, Ponter needed both aces to break 90 – he shot 89 from the white markers, which play to less than 5,600 yards on the watery, par-70 course.
After accomplishing the feat, Ponter headed over to The Thistle Golf Club for an ace-less afternoon round.
“I think the guy was in shock,” said Oyster Bay PGA professional Tim Jackson, who doesn’t know of any other two-ace rounds at the Sunset Beach, N.C., course, which opened in 1983. “He was very nonchalant when he got back to the clubhouse. We were telling him, ‘Dude, you need to play the lottery.’”
Jackson said Legends Golf, which owns Oyster Bay, is planning some type of gift to commemorate Ponter’s achievement.
Ponter picked up four extra scorecards – one of the buddies on the trip used calligraphy to record the round – for framing. He took both “kind of beat-up water balls” out of play after retrieving them from the hole.
Ponter said he’s been told Golf Channel may recognize his accomplishment on its daily Morning Drive news show.
Since returning to the Pittsburgh area last weekend, Ponter hasn’t played any golf. But he plans to return to the Grand Strand to play golf next year.
“Absolutely,” he said.