Whether it was due to divine intervention or just luck, Massachusetts native Bob Farrell had a lot to be thankful for this weekend.
The 72-year-old recreational golfer from Hanson, Mass., who first picked up a golf club at the age of 50, hit the shot of his life Saturday, notching his first-ever hole-in-one at a church-sponsored charity golf tournament and winning a $15,000 cash prize in the process.
“I wasn’t exactly having my ‘A’ game at the time,” recalled Farrell, who plays about twice a month with wife Barbara over the summer. “It was funny. We were all standing there at the tee and Bill Ferris was talking about the hole-in-one, and how he came within six inches of getting it one time.”
Farrell, who played golf three weeks ago for the first time since October — was a late addition to the 36-player field participating in the seventh East Orrington Congregational Church Charity Tournament at Rocky Knoll Country Club in Orrington Saturday.
“My cousin, Ron Landy, and his wife Flo live in Orrington and we usually come up once a year this time of year to visit,” Farrell explained. “When I called to make plans, he said he’d be in a tournament that day, but said he’d see if he could get me in.”
Landry, who was already signed up with another foursome, found a replacement for himself and formed another foursome with Farrell, Bill Ferris, and Jeff Reynolds.
They teed off on the ninth hole in a shotgun start at the tournament. Apparently it took Farrell awhile to heat up, but once he did, he was on fire.
“I hit a 5-iron and I thought it rolled past the pin, the way it looked when it was raised on a hill,” he explained of the hole-in-one. “The two guys [spotters] started raising their arms and clapping, but we thought maybe it was close and we had a chance for birdie.
“We all thought it rolled past the pin, but they said it came right up the green and plopped into the hole from below.”
Instead, the man who’d never won more than $50 in his life was suddenly $15,000 richer.
“We’ve had this hole-in-one contest every year, but it was $10,000 before we bumped it up this year,” said Carl Schreiber, EOCC senior pastor.
The hole-in-one payoff was set up through Hole-In-One Insurance and sponsored by Joe Simpson of ERA Realty.
“The hole has to be at least 154 yards long and this was 161, there has to be at least one tournament official witnessing the shot and we had two, and we have to pay a fee for the insurance,” said Schreiber
Farrell’s good fortune and play in the scramble didn’t end with his ace. On the next hole, his 275-yard tee shot was used by his team, as well as his approach, which hit the green and rolled 10 feet off, and his chip shot, which went in the hole.
“We started bowing down to him and told him we’d start carrying his clubs. He was carrying us,” said Landry, who had given Farrell some pointers and tips while practicing at the driving range the night before.
Farrell treated Landry and his wife to a clambake and lobster dinner Sunday to show his appreciation.
Farrell’s foursome also won the overall men’s division title, earning each member $25 and a box of golf balls.
“There was no thought in my mind whatsoever of doing something like that,” Farrell said. “I’m still finding it hard to believe.”
Farrell said he has no idea what he’ll do with the prize money, but he probably won’t be replacing his set of Ping Zings anytime soon.
“The insurance people said for a tournament with 100 players, the odds of getting a hole-in-one are 12,700 to one,” Schreiber said.
Schreiber said the tourney raised $1,500 for the EOCC discretionary fund, used primarily to provide heating assistance to local families in need during the winter.
Schreiber is already anticipating next year’s tourney, expecting an even larger field for his church’s biggest fundraiser.
Farrell has already said he’ll be back to play again.