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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Kansas golfers hit consecutive holes-in-one on same hole in Hesston

BY BOB LUTZ
The Wichita Eagle

I'm going to give you the details of what happened last Thursday on hole No. 17 at the Hesston Golf Park. You're not going to believe them. You're going to think I'm making them up to get attention. Or that I've gotten into the liquor cabinet.

On the 212-yard par 3 hole, Greg Bontrager and Justin Pressnall, involved in match play against one another, made back-to-back holes-in-one.

Stay with me here.

Pressnall, raised in Moundridge and now living in McPherson, hit first. The wind was blowing gently toward the No. 17 green as he launched a six-iron.

It was a pretty shot, one that was definitely going to land on the green.

But Paul Voran, who was in the foursome, screamed out that it was something more than just a good shot. He said Pressnall's ball went into the cup, although it was difficult for anyone to see exactly what happened.

Clearly, everyone in the group needed a moment to contemplate. And to wonder.

Then Bontrager, a music teacher in Buhler who lives in Newton, stepped to the tee box. He and Pressnall barely knew one another from their participation in the Hesston men's club. They've never been golfing buddies and could never have known they were about to do something so incredible, so amazing, so unbelievable that they would forever be bound together.

Using a 23-degree hybrid, Bontrager hit his tee shot. Remember, now, everyone on the tee box had just gone through the emotions of what at least one of them swore was a hole-in-one by Pressnall, so the energy level was high.

Bontrager's shot, he said, mirrored the shot hit by Pressnall. The golf ball took the same path of flight and landed on the green and looked to roll straight toward the flag stick.

Could it be? Had a couple of small-town Kansas guys — decent golfers but nothing close to scratch — done the impossible? Or at least accomplished something National Hole-In-One Registry determined has at least 17 million to 1 odds?

But that's on a typical par-3, whatever a typical par-3 is. Hesston's No. 17, at 212 yards, isn't typical.

Hesston pro Scott Welsh, who has been at the course for 11 years, estimates there are three or four holes-in-one on No. 17 a year, among the thousands of rounds played.

"It's not a hole that regularly gives up holes-in-one,'' Welsh said. "I don't remember where the pin was that day, but does it really matter?"

No, probably not.

Neither Bontrager nor Pressnall had ever had a hole-in-one.

As they neared the No. 17 green, neither saw his ball on the green. The anticipation was enormous, but had to be contained. The worst thing would have been for Bontrager and Pressnell to get their hopes up, then be disappointed.

"We all jumped out of our carts and went running up there pretty quick when we noticed there were no balls,'' Pressnall said. "Greg's partner (Voran) got to the hole first and looked into the cup and saw both balls sitting in there.''

Another moment was needed.

"We never really believed it until then,'' Bontrager said. "You want it to be, but you're not going to get too excited before you actually see it.''

At that point, both golfers went a little crazy. It was so loud, they said, that golfers on nearby holes stopped to take notice. And the celebrating lasted for a good long time, a combination of euphoria and disbelief.

Mostly disbelief.

"I've always wanted to just witness a hole-in-one,'' Bontrager said. "It was just crazy.''

The two golfers might have stopped their rounds right there. Called it a night and rushed to a nearby watering hole to rehash the story over and over and over.

But there was a match to be decided. Pressnall had a one-hole match-play lead over Bontrager as they stood on the No. 17 tee and Pressnall, for good reason, probably thought he had locked up the match with his shot.

It turned into a push, however, and Bontrager won No. 18 with a par to Pressnall's bogey. It's probably justice that they tied the match.

Thursday night, Bontrager and Pressnall treated the other players in the men's league to a barbecue and drinks. Probably a few drinks, considering the immensity of their accomplishment.

"If something like this happened on the PGA Tour, I'm sure it would make the Top 10 plays,'' Bontrager said.

Instead, it happened in Hesston, Kan. Two shots heard 'round the world.

Or at least 'round Harvey County.

This is no urban legend. Years from now, when this story of back-to-back holes-in-one is being told yet again, non-believers will be shrill in their skepticism.

But this happened. It really happened.

Check sports columnist Bob Lutz's blog at blogs.kansas.com/lutz. Reach him at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com.

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