Western Pennsylvania golfers pull off rare feats

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It is rare enough for any golfer to have two holes in one in the same round, a feat so improbable that Golf Digest magazine estimates the odds at 1-in-67 million.

But how about two golfers from Western Pennsylvania doing it two days apart?

Greg Shepard of Upper St. Clair and John Ponter of Baden each performed the trick last week while playing out of town, and each was surprised to hear about the other’s accomplishment.

Shepard, a 6-handicap who is a member at Oakmont and St. Clair country clubs, recorded two holes in one six holes apart March 21 playing in an invitational at The Preserve Course at Shadow Wood Country Club in Bonita Springs, Fla..

Ponter, a public-course player with a 15-handicap, did it nine holes apart playing with friends March 19 at Oyster Bay Golf Club in Sunset Beach, N.C., just north of Myrtle Beach,.

“The first one was a high-five, back-slapping, get-the-drink-cart-over-here kind of thing,” Shepard said. “The second one was very subdued, just handshakes, like everyone’s in shock and disbelief.”

“It was truly unbelievable,” Ponter said. “I’m saying to myself, there’s no way anyone is going to believe it.”

Ponter’s feat might be more incredible because he had never had a hole in one. Shepard already had had two aces, including in 2013 at Oakmont, giving him three holes in one in the past 10 months.

Unlike Ponter, who said he saw both shots go in the hole, Shepard did not know he had a hole in one until his group reached the green each time.

“I knew they were good shots and we did what every normal golfer does — you go up to the green and you’re in disbelief because there’s no ball,” Shepard said. “We all started looking over the green in the rough because that’s the normal reaction — you can’t find your ball on the green so you assume you hit it over. Finally someone looks in hole.”

Shepard had the first of his two aces on the sixth hole at Shadow Wood, a 150-yard par 3, when he hit 8-iron to a hole location hidden behind a mound. The second came at the 123-yard 12th, when he hit a pitching wedge into the late-day sun — giving him holes in one on consecutive par-3s.

“There was one more par 3 and you stand over the ball and think, geez, I already have two, why not?” said Shepard, who shot 68 that day. “I hit a very good shot on the last par 3, which ended up about 15 feet, and my opponent looked at me and said, ‘Disappointed?’ ”

Ponter was on a golf trip to Myrtle Beach and was playing Oyster Bay for the first time with new clubs he received for Christmas. Six holes into the round, after starting on the back nine, he recorded the first of his two aces using a 9-iron on No. 15, a 109-yard par-3 with an island green.

He had the second at No. 16, when he used an 8-iron on the 135-yard hole.

“We were joking around about it on the tee, try to get another one, and sure enough it went in,” said Ponter, who shot 89. “I don’t play that much. I probably played six or eight times last year. But it was kind of fun how the guys were getting excited. They made a big deal out of it.”

There is something about Western Pennsylvania that fosters this rare phenomenon.

Five years ago, former Pirates pitcher Steve Blass had two holes in one in the same round at a Pirates alumni charity event at Greensburg Country Club.

In 2010, sports agent Alonzo Shavers, who had never had a hole in one in 14 years of playing golf, had two just four holes apart playing in a charity event at Treesdale Golf & Country Club.

Unlike Shavers, who won a car and a trip for his accomplishments, Shepard and Ponter received only congratulatory pats on the back. And the hospitality of the host club.

“I was particularly thrilled, and so was my member host, that the club picked up the drink tab,” Shepard said. “It would have been substantial.”

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.

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