One of the most talented golfer-politicos, John E Kennedy, was actually relieved once when he didn't get a hole in one. Playing at Cypress Point in California shortly before the 1960 election to succeed Dwight Eisenhower, an avid golfer, JFK sent a seven-iron toward the pin on the 143-yard 15th. "Go in! Go in!" yelled one of his playing partners, Paul B. Fay Jr., later undersecretary of the Navy. Kennedy had "a look of horror on his face," says Fay. The ball hit the pin and kicked to the side, stopping about six inches from the cup, and Kennedy breathed a sigh of relief. "If that ball had gone into that hole," Kennedy told Fay, "in less than an hour the word would be out to the nation that another golfer was trying to get in the White House."
Less secretive about his golfing prowess is Kim Jong II, president of North Korea. In October '94 Kim scored five aces in a round at the Pyongyang Golf Club en route to a, ahem, 38-under 34. That obliterated the previous low round of 59, shot by Al Geiberger at the Memphis Classic in 1977 and Chip Beck at the '91 Las Vegas Invitational. That was the report, anyway, from Pyongyang pro Park Young Nam, who added, "Dear Leader comrade general Kim Jong II, whom I respect from the bottom of my heart, is an excellent golfer." We should say so. Incidentally, according to his biography Kim, 54, also am produce bumper rice crops at will, so this golf thing is kind of a sideline.
Far more interesting are the hole-in-one tales of unknowns, those whom Fate tapped on the shoulder and put on Golf Digest's alltime hole-in-one list. Four names in particular intrigued me: Rose Montgomery, the oldest woman to score a hole in one; Robert Mitera, the man with the longest straightaway hole in one in history; Norman Manley, who has the alltime record number of holes in one (59); and Dr. Joseph Boydstone, who scored three aces in one round and finished one incredible year with 11. Well, maybe.
The Rose Montgomery story is bittersweet. On June 2, 1992, Montgomery pulled out a club, probably a five-wood, and knocked her drive on the 100-yard 7th hole at Canyon Country Club in Palm Springs into the cup for her 10th career ace. She was 96 years old. "There's no doubt it happened," says Jack Koennecker, golf director emeritus at the club, where Montgomery frequently won the women's championship. "Everybody around the club heard about it right away." Koennecker speaks approvingly of Montgomery's competitiveness and determination. "Rose used to spit on her gloves and say, 'Let's get after it,' " he says. "Some people thought that was kind of crude. But I thought it was great. She was one of the few women I ever heard of who shot her age." Indeed, on the day she recorded that 10th ace, Montgomery shot a 92. Shortly after that historic round, however, she became ill, and last year she died.
On Oct. 7, 1965, Mitera, a Creighton University golfer, stepped to the tee at the 447-yard 10th hole at the appropriately named Miracle Hills Golf Club in Omaha. It was an extremely blustery day, and the wind was behind him. Mitera let it rip. The ball got into the wind, landed near the green, bounced a few times, and presumably rolled into the hole, though no one saw it do so. That broke the previous long-ball record on a straightaway hole by 20 yards. (The record on a dogleg is a 496-yard ace by Shaun Lynch of Devon, England, on the 17th at the Teign Valley Club in Christow, England, last year.)
I wondered how this singular feat had sat with Mitera over the years and whether it had propelled him to a successful amateur career. After numerous phone calls to Omaha, I finally located him. "What do you want with me?" he asked impatiently.
"I'd like to talk about your hole in one," I said.
"I don't want to," said Mitera. "Goodbye." And he hung up.
"Yes, I've been called a liar many times," says Norman Manley, who claims he, not Mancil Davis, is the real King of Aces.
Well, you won't hear him called a liar here. No one but Manley can say whether he truly has 59 holes in one, amassed over 30 years on courses from Lake Tahoe to Mexico and all marked down in a book he keeps at his home in Long Beach, Calif. But does it not strain credulity that Manley, a talented amateur to be sure (his handicap in his prime ranged between six and eight, and he was a seven-time champion at Del Valle Country Club in Saugus, Calif.) but no Hogan, put it into the cup from the tee 59 times? And, on one record-breaking occasion—Aug. 4, 1964—did it on consecutive par-4s at Del Valle?