Flora Cathers hesitated to get too excited in the moments before she knew she got her first hole-in-one last spring.
It happened at hole 13 on the Founders Course at Penn National Golf Club in Fayetteville. She used a 5-wood to smack the ball 135 yards from the standard ladies’ tees. She thought she saw the ball go in. A friend who took off further up confirmed it.
“It was a beautiful shot that hit the green and dropped right down into the cup,” said Cathers, 74.
She always hoped to get a hole-in-one one day, to join some friends in Florida who’ve achieved it.
“On a par 3, I always hope for a hole-in-one. That’s the game, you know? That’s the mindset; we’re at a par 3, hole-in-one.”
Little did she know at the time it would be the first of three holes-in-one she would hit in less than six months. The last two happened within a week in September.
She hit her second hole-in-one on Sept. 9 at Penn National’s Iron Forge Course, on the sixth hole, also a par 3. She swung her 9-wood with less power than usual to send the ball 107 yards over a water hazard. Normally, she’ll get 115 yards with that club.
“It went over the water so pretty, so perfect,” she said. “That hole can give you a lot of trouble because you go over the water.”
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She was playing in Penn National’s Mixed League at the time, with her husband and two other men. None of the three had ever seen someone hit a hole-in-one, she said.
“(One of the other players) was ready to drive up and putt. He jumped out of his cart. I think he threw his putter,” she said about her friend’s reaction.
Her third hole-in-one happened on Sept. 14 and was identical to the first one; it was the same course, same hole, same club and the ball went the same distance. She had a feeling about it and watched as the ball dropped into the hole.
“Each one of these holes-in-one was an unexpected blessing from God,” she said. “I’m just so thankful for him allowing me to have three of them.”
How rare is a hole-in-one?
According to the National Hole in One Registry, 1% to 2% of Golfers make a hole-in-one in a typical year.
Cathers is among 9% of hole-in-one golfers to make a third one. About 14% of those who make one make a second.
Cathers began golfing 30 years ago. Her husband wanted to get into the sport to network with business clients, and she decided to give it a try, too.
“He says he likes it. I love it. And I do, I love it,” she said.
She started playing more about 10 years ago after she and her husband, who are from the Lehigh Valley, bought a second house at Penn National so they could attend more of their grandchildren’s Sporting events. She got more serious around five years ago after joining the club’s leagues, which have since become a big part of her life.
“I love the exercise. I try to walk 18 holes when I can,” she said. “I love golfing with the ladies. I have met some lifelong friends out here.”
There are typically 12 to 15 holes-in-one each year at Penn National, according to Darin Peart, the club’s head PGA professional. That means Cathers has hit 20-to-25% of the club’s holes in one this year.
Ten to 15 holes-in-one annually is typical for a golf course, according to the hole-in-one registry.
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More than half of holes-in-one are made by average Golfers with handicaps between 10 and 19. Cathers said she has a 16 Handicap on the Iron Forge course and a 20 on Founders.
Here are more facts from the National Hole in One Registry:
- The odds of an average player making a hole in one are 12,000 to 1. To compare, a professional golfer has a 3,000 to 1 chance of making a hole in one.
- About 128,000 holes-in-one are made each year.
- A hole-in-one is made in one over every 3,500 rounds of golf. About 450 million rounds of golf are played every year.
- 14% of holes-in-one are made by female players.
- The average length of a hole-in-one is 147 yards. The longest recorded was 404 yards.
- 60% of Golfers who have made a hole-in-one are 50 or older.
Will Cathers aim for a fourth hole-in-one?
If it happens, it happens, she said. There will certainly be a lot of opportunities.
Cathers and her husband, John, travel back and forth between their Penn National home and a home in Allentown. When in Franklin County, she usually plays five days a week.
Golf season may be coming to a close, but the cool weather doesn’t keep Cathers away.
“In the snow, absolutely not, or if it’s below 40. If we’re here in December and it’s 45 or whatever, we’ll play.”
Cathers received plaques containing the ball and scorecard from each of her three holes-in-ones from Penn National. She keeps them on her fireplace mantle.
“This grandmother of four, wife and mother is just so extremely happy to be able to have the three holes-in-one,” she said. “My family is very happy for me.”
Amber South can be reached at [email protected]