By Richard Rourk
According to the National Hole-in-One Registry, the odds of the average golfer making a hole-in-one are 12,500 to 1.
One Unicoi County resident, has accomplished just such a feat a total of 17 times.
“The last hole-in-one that I got was on Aug. 8,” Jerry Whitt told The Erwin Record. “I got this one at the Elizabethton Golf Course. I’ve been really lucky.”
He sank the most recent hole-in-one exactly one week after his 85th birthday which was celebrated by his golf buddies at the Cookhouse at the Elizabethton Golf Course.
Although Whitt is humble about his accomplishments, it takes more than luck to land 17 holes-in-one.
“I guess you could say I lost a lot of golf,” Whitson said. “I play so much, my wife suggested I invest in a personalized tag that says ‘Golf 24/7.’”
Whitt said that he plays seven days a week and has been doing so for years.
Whitt, who first took up a golf club 62 years ago, got his introduction to the sport while in Germany.
“The first time I ever played golf was with a friend of mine in the Air Force,” Whitt said. “He originally played junior golf with Jack Nicklaus.”
He resumed playing golf when he got back to the United States.
“A friend of mine, Gerald Powers from Erwin, was who I first played with stateside,” Whitt said.
Whitt said he has seen many changes to the sport of golf over the years, especially regarding the equipment.
“The equipment is superior to what we had when I first started,” Whitt said.
“When I first started playing we had a persimmon or wooded headed clubs,” Whitt noted. “Now they are titanium and there is more room for error in today’s clubs. The balls are a lot more advanced today as well.”
Whitt said he still gets excited when he gets a hole- in-one, despite having 16 under his belt.
“I started playing in 1959 and got my first hole-in-one outside of Augusta, while I was in town to watch the 1964 Master’s,” Whitt said. “There was a little three par course there and a group of us were playing. I remember hitting a shot and hearing it hit a tree or two in the pine thickets. One of the guys in front said ‘I believe that went in’ and I really thought he was joking but the ball was in the hole.”
Following the first hole-in-one, Whitt began racking them up.
“From there I shot one in West Tennessee, near Nashville,” Whitt said. “I played over there a lot before I retired. I had one in North Carolina and one in South Carolina. Most have come locally. I’ve had six holes-in-one at Buffalo Valley and this last one makes four at Elizabethton.”
With Whitt’s legacy being well known, he is asked to play in many tournaments.
“I recently played in a tournament where the youngest player was 13 and I was the oldest,” Whitt said. “It’s always good to see the young guys play and to be able to keep pace with them.”
Whitt doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
“I still play 18 to 36 holes just about every day,” Whitt said. “I still love it.”