Grateful to be back to Golf During a Pandemic, PGA Life Members Record One of the Game’s Rarest Feats
By Bob Denney, PGA Historian
When you get a couple of PGA Life Members together for a round of golf, there’s no telling what might happen. Sometimes it’s off the charts.
Husband and wife Steve Howe and Carolyn Barnett-Howe of Appleton, Wisconsin, teamed for a weekly best-ball event among PGA Members Wednesday at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida. They came away having accomplished one of golf’s rarest feats.
Steve and Carolyn, each using a 7-iron, made back-to-back holes-in-one on the testy 158-yard, par-3 No. 6 hole on The Dye Course. The Howes’ balls came to rest in the Styrofoam sponge collar just inside the hole. The collar follows COVID-19 safety guidelines to prevent golfers from touching the metal flagstick.
The excitement overshadowed the 74th birthday of playing partner Fred Gipp of Port St. Lucie, another PGA Life Member. Even so, playing from the white tees he hit a 9-iron from 130 yards to within five feet of the flagstick. Gipp rolled his putt home for a birdie and the trio won the event. If there was a downside, neither Steve or Carolyn could claim the “giant skin” prize, their aces cancelling each other out for the lowest score on that momentous sixth hole.
“I’ve made 14 holes-in-one, but I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” said Gipp, a former PGA Head Professional at West Sayville (New York) Golf Course. “It was my birthday present. That was two for the Gipper.”
The Howes are no slouches when it comes to holes-in-one, either: Steve now has 10 and Carolyn five. Carolyn, 57, is a two-time Women’s PGA Stroke Play champion (2006, ’08), while Steve, 69, served as Wisconsin PGA President from 1984-86.
“All the stars aligned for this,” said Carolyn, who completed an eight-week coaching program for 100 prep golfers in Wisconsin just before the health crisis shut down the spring sports season. “It was surreal. Steve hit first, so his was easy. The pressure was all on me.”
It was the first time in five weeks that the Howes used golf carts. Each was driving their own cart in accordance with safety guidelines during the health crisis.
“Everything happened at once,” said Steve, “And it was great seeing Freddy get excited. I wish we could have had a party, but the clubhouse is closed. Once it reopens, we will celebrate.
Aside from a big day on the course, Carolyn said she and Steve feel “incredibly blessed” to be able to golf during a health crisis.
“Golf has its own way of social distancing,” she said. “Golf is in a unique position to help us out of this. I think that people can enjoy the outdoors as we all transition.”
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