Don Mahler: Now That’s Using Your Noodle; Ace Pays Off for Crown Point Golfer
Springfield, Vt. — Mark Twain once said golf is a good walk spoiled. That may be true for some, just don’t try selling that sentiment to Springfield’s Ken Spear.
For Spear, playing a round of golf on Sept. 22 turned into a rather profitable walk at the Crown Point Country Club. With just one swing of his hybrid club, Spear walked away with the top prize from the Jeffrey S. Holmes Memorial Golf Tournament that day.
His drive off the 18th tee was worth $25,000 after it disappeared into the cup for a hole-in-one.
“I hit the ball, and it went into the hole,” said Spear simply, while looking out over the prize-winning 18th green last week. “When it happened, we couldn’t hear each other, there was so much yelling. You could probably hear us all over the course. The first thing I did was call my wife.”
To put that accomplishment into perspective, the last time there was a prize of this magnitude at Crown Point was back in 1995 when Claremont’s Chris Joyce won a car. In all this golf season, there have been four other holes-in-one recorded at CPCC, interestingly all accomplished by women.
To further put that payday in perspective, Ernie Els — with 66 PGA Tour victories and four major titles — has only earned $18,223 this year. Not bad for Spear, a 66-year-old Springfield resident with a 26 handicap who started playing golf five years ago.
Spear came close to a hole-in-one only one other time, six months ago at Crown Point on the 174-yard, par-3 13th hole.
“My tee shot ended up one foot from the hole,” said Spear, who works at Crown Point during the summer as a course maintenance man and plays golf maybe three times a week. “I figured that was as close as I ever would get.
“Of course, then I two-putted from there,” he laughed.
He had a lot better luck at the tournament, a fundraiser for the 2 1/2-year-old White River Junction-based Legion Post 84. The day was going Spear’s way even before the 18th hole. At 17, he won the prize for longest putt made, a 17-footer, which earned him (what else?) a new putter.
But nothing compared to what was about to happen on 18.
Around the same time, Dan Hilliard, the Post 84 chairman for the event, was wondering if this hole-in-one prize was worth the cost to insure and effort to police at the event to raise money for youths and veterans. There were three other holes on the course that also had prizes involved for the 87 golfers signed up — a set of irons, round-trip airfare anywhere in the United States and an LED television. All fine prizes, but they paled in comparison to the hole-in-one prize on 18.
“It cost us nearly $500 to insure oursleves (in case someone notched the hole-in-one),” said Hilliard. “I was thinking to myself, ‘Do we really want to do this again? Nobody is going to do it.’ ”
But when he reached the 18th green, he noticed all the promo signs were gone and the spotter was nowhere in sight.
“I asked somebody what was going on and they said Ken got the hole-in-one,” Hilliard remembered.
All of a sudden, Hilliard’s $500 insurance payout seemed like a good investment.
Yet as he stood at the 18 that day, Spear was already conceding to the hole. “Nine out of 10 times, I don’t even hit the green,” he said. “Most of the time, I am in the (water) hazard over there,” pointing to the right of the green.
Spear usually played a Titleist Pro V1 ball. But on this day, he had found a TaylorMade Noodle out on the course and decided to save his Pro V1. This way, if he went into the pond, he still had his good ball to play.
Using his favorite club, the 4-hybrid, Spear swung easily through the ball from the middle tee box on the 167-yard closing hole. The Noodle flew straight and true — like a dart, almost a line drive — hitting just before the green, taking a bounce or two and rolling right toward the cup … and in.
The members of his foresome — Sean Foulis, Brian Perkins and Al LaPlante — started yelling. Everyone dashed to the green to make sure the ball actually went in the hole.
And there it was. Let the celebration begin … except Spear and his group still had to finish their round. They still had five holes to go. “I didn’t want to play out, but they all said I had to,” said Spear. “We finished in about 10 minutes.”
Then it was time for that ancient ritual when a golfer scores a hole-in-one — drinks for everyone. “I was lucky,” said Spear. “The bar was almost empty. All it cost me was $43.”
From there it became a paper chase, filling out verification forms, talking to insurance people and making sure all the members of the foursome and the spotter told the same story.
In the meantime, Spear was making plans for his money — paying off his car, buying a new computer and giving his wife $15,000.
He took the ball home with his scorecard and the promo sign signaling his $25,000 purse to serve as a fitting souvenir. He thanked all the well-wishers and shrugged off the comical efforts of friends — and non-acquaintances — who were looking for a loan. Then, a few days later, he was back on the golf course.
With Crown Point staying open through November, Spear has been out since to try his luck replicating that magical moment.
It wasn’t quite the same.
“I didn’t do as well as I did on that day,” he said. “I didn’t even hit the green.”
Don Mahler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3226.