Unni Haskell, a 62-year-old native of Norway who moved to St. Petersburg, Fla. last year from Stamford, Conn., took two months of golf lessons at Mangrove Bay Golf Course, an 18-hole, par-72 public facility, with PGA teaching professional Rick Sopka. After spending most of her time on the driving range, on February 25, Haskell decided it was time to hit the course.
“We were going to do a putting lesson that day,” Sopka told the St. Petersburg Times. “She said, no, she wanted to play. She didn’t even hit a range ball. No warmup at all.”
So Haskell talked Sopka into driving their golf cart over to Cypress Links, a nine-hole, par-3 public course next to Mangrove Bay. Once there, she stuck a tee in the ground, plopped the ball on top, took aim on the 100-yard first hole and swung her driver. The shot went about 75 yards, avoided a bunker on the left, bounced onto the green—and rolled into the hole.
First hole of her life, first swing on a course. Hole-in-one.
Haskell’s feat is not unprecedented. A golfer in England did it in October 2008 on a 140-yard hole. And in 2006, a junior golfer from Rockford, Ill., aced the first hole she played. Still, the odds of an amateur acing any par-3 hole are roughly 12,500-to-one.
Sopka, a PGA member since 1998, has seen a lot as a teaching pro, but he had never seen this, and probably never will again.
“She stood there and I could tell she was thinking about her grip and posture and everything,” he said. “Then she makes her swing and hits it about 75 yards in the air. It kind of trundled up to the green and I’m like, ‘Go in! Go in!’ And then I go crazy, screaming and yelling. I give her a big hug. She didn’t believe me.”
“I didn’t know it was that big of a deal,” Haskell told the Times. “I thought all golfers do this.”
“(Sopka) had said you should find something to line the shot up,” she added in recounting the shot. “I saw a little leaf over there and I asked him if that was a good thing to line up with. He thought it looked good. Then I swung the club and Rick said it looked really good. He said it might go in the hole. Then he goes nuts. I couldn’t believe it. I had to get Rick to take me up to the hole to prove it.”
Sopka quickly brought Haskell back to reality with his next comment, though. “I said, ‘Unni, here’s the problem: There’s nowhere to go from here but down.’ ”
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