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The odds are 67 million to 1, but Butch Blessard did it last week while playing golf with friends at Ashley Plantation.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
J.R. “Butch” Blessard hit two holes-in-one during a round of golf he played Friday at Ashley Plantation. The only downer on his day of euphoria was that he later lost the history-making ball he used on both aces.
J.R. "Butch" Blessard
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Most golfers go a lifetime without making a hole-in-one.
Well, J.R “Butch” Blessard is an extreme exception to the norm.
In a feat that comes straight out of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, the 67-year-old Roanoke retiree made a pair of aces in a span of less than an hour last Friday at Ashley Plantation.
When asked his reaction when hearing the news, Peter Gardner , the Daleville club’s head PGA professional and general manager had a two-word response: “Totally incredible!”
Talk about bucking astronomical odds. According to the National Hole-in-One Registry, the chances of a player making two holes-in-one in the same round are 67 million to 1.
Playing in the club’s daily senior competition, Blessard’s first ace came on his group’s fifth hole of the round — the 182-yard seventh hole — on the Meadows nine. The second came four holes later on the 118-yard second hole on the Hills nine.
“It’s strictly luck,” said Blessard, an 11-handicapper. “There’s no skill involved. I’m a good average golfer and I got lucky.”
Blessard, a former Roanoke city motorcycle policeman, said he understands why many are skeptical about the validity of an exploit that frankly rates as bizarre taken to the nth degree.
“Absolutely, I understand that,” he said. “The reason for that is because it’s such a rarity. I’ve been told since that there’s probably only 200 people in the history of golf who have done this.
“All I can tell the cynics is I will take a polygraph test. And they can televise it live on ESPN if they want!” said Blessard, erupting into laughter Tuesday during an interview at the club.
“Furthermore, I can assure them that every one of the witnesses would take a lie detector test, too, if they would like.”
Three of Blessard’s four playing partners — fellow members Jimmy Thompson, Richard Sink and Allen Robinette — during the round, witnessed both aces.
“I can absolute guarantee that he did it,” Thompson said authoritatively.
When asked if everything was on the up and up, Sink said: “Yes, it is. He definitely hit ’em, he got ’em!”
Robinette, a retired air traffic controller, completed the hat trick of confirmation, saying: “I saw both of them really good and on both of them the ball hit within 2 or 3 feet of the hole and rolled into the cup.
“I don’t think I’ll ever see that again. I don’t think there’s any possibility on earth that will happen!”
Tom Adams, 78, witnessed the first of Blessard’s aces. He didn’t catch the second one as the course marshall broke up the unusual fivesome at the turn to expedite play on the course.
“I would swear on it,” Adams said. “The guys we play nobody would give anybody anything. When I heard he made the second one, I couldn’t believe it. I guess I saw only half of history, though.”
Twin “1s” in a single round of golf do happen, though. A Google search revealed that the odds-defying feat occurred earlier this month. On May 1 in Rochester, Mich., Kassandra Komma , a member of Oakland University’s women’s golf team, made a pair of aces in a span of five holes at R&S Sharf Course, according to FOX Sports Detroit. On May 2, 65-year-old grandmother Jan Walker of Australia pulled the double, according to the Down Under website news.com.au .
Still, we’re talking the longest of long shots. Blessard’s chances of being struck by lightning in any given year are exponentially greater: 1 in a million, according to the website weather.com.
Individual interviews of all parties involved did uncover some debate on Blessard’s aces. Blessard said he thought both shots flew straight into the hole. Robinette and Sink said each shot hit close to the pin and rolled into the cup. Needless to say, all five seniors involved don’t rock perfect vision.
“The only disagreement that we’ll all have is did it take one bounce, did it fly in the hole, did it fall out of the sky?” said Blessard, breaking into laughter. “Because some had had a few drinks, some only had one eye, some had cataracts, but I saw both.”
Robinette, who as a former air traffic cop should be well versed in such matters, said: “They didn’t fly in the hole, I’m sorry, they did roll in the hole because I saw both of them. But I do have cataracts in both eyes!”
Sink’s said: “I’ve got pretty good distance eyesight. They hit within 3 or 4 feet of the hole and rolled in.”
Meanwhile, Thompson confessed he wasn’t the strongest of eyewitnesses.
“I’ve got sight in one eye,’’ he said. “Both looked good all the way and everybody immediately said it was going in the hole and sure enough they were in the hole!
“If it’s in the hole and I get up to the green the same time as everybody else and I see them pick it out of the hole, well, it went in the hole.”
The only downer on Blessard’s day of euphoria was that he lost the history-making ball he used on both aces two holes after the second hole-in-one.
“They all told me to put the ball away,’’ Blessard said. “So I’m being cocky, I said, ‘Well, we still have one more par-3 to play.’ ”
Blessard lost the ball when he hit his drive on the Hills’ par-4 fourth hole into some bushes and out of bounds, Thompson said.
“We spent probably 20 to 25 minutes in the bushes where he hit the ball,” Robinette said. “He was nonchalant about it, ‘Oh, it’s just a ball.’ I would have had that sucker tucked away in the left pocket or something!”
Blessard, a gregarious personality who either is talking or smiling all the time, was glad to take care of his partners on the 19th hole. It’s golf tradition that anyone making a hole-in-one pick up the post-round beverage tab.
“I gave the girl in the club my credit card at the turn after the first one,’’ Blessard said. “I told her I made a hole-in-one and I’ll go ahead and start a tab. I knew there was going to be some serious drinking.”
Robinette said after Blessard made the second ace he called and told the girl: “I think we’re going to need a keg and they didn’t have one. So I think he got off light at the 19th hole.”
The 19th hole tab was only $18.75, which was covered by the $35 he won on the golf course, said Blessard, who finished with a 2-over-par 75.
“Well, they doubled up on me on the tab the next day,’’ added Blessard, who made his first hole-in-one two years ago at The Vista Links in Buena Vista.
“And they’ve been chipping away since. I told ’em I turn 68 Aug. 7 and that’s the cutoff date.”
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