The Vagabond – Charlie’s Hart’s barefoot hole-in-one

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By Danny Crownover

Charles Centerfit Hart posted in the Gadsden High Folks Facebook page about and his hole-in-one experience some 20 years ago. It reads:

“On October 4, 2003 at the Gadsden Country Club, my four-iron shot for a hole-in-one on the par three 15th hole, made sans the shoes (after all, this is Alabama, and the afternoon was warm) was witnessed only by Barbara and the blue heron standing guard in the lake in front of the green.

“The country club course was founded in 1919, the same year as Pebble Beach. The University of Alabama had a football game on television, so it was not crowded. Except for seeing Ray and Anne Renfrow at the start and Jim and Neita Taylor at the finish on the course, it was like playing in the Twilight Zone that afternoon.

“My shot was not heard around the world, much less around the course.

“Alabama ranks high in fall and spring in the pleasant weather category, although in the past we have ranked lower in more important categories.

“In 1968 when I was 22 years old, two friends and I (we were all in grad school) were allowed to play in the Men’s Labor Day weekend tournament. Bebo Klyce, who ran that tournament, said we could play if we behaved ourselves.

“Sam Snead had recently been quoted in a golf magazine as saying he played golf as a kid without shoes and that it was more fun. He took off his shoes and made two birdies, impressing the sportswriter. I decided to try it during the qualifying round on hole No. 11.

“The tee box was tucked back in the woods, so I thought the members would not see me way back there. Keep in mind that we carried our own bags back then.

“I took off my shoes and socks, hit a good tee shot over the ditch on the slight dogleg right and walked to my ball carrying my shoes and socks. I hit my 8-iron into the hole for an eagle. I made championship flight by shooting a 78, beating Myron Allenstein and Bob Bass, something I had never done in junior tournaments.

“The member who saw me walking barefoot down No. 11 was Dr. Bobby Graves, whose father Dr. Alex knew my grandmother Addie Centerfit growing up in Talladega. He knew me from church. I thought I’d be thrown out of the tournament. I was allowed to stay on, but the good doctor never let me forget my youthful indiscretion.

“Dr. Graves and his family were among a handful of spectators who followed Ben Hogan at the Masters when he was supposedly over the hill. He shot a 30 on the back nine.

“When I started my job at the General Accounting Office in 1972, my new shoes hurt my feet. I thought no one would see me at my desk, so I took my shoes off while I worked. A long-time supervisor from New York City saw me shoeless. When she learned I was from Alabama, she told my immediate boss, ‘Well, I heard that people from Alabama didn’t wear shoes. But I never believed it until now.’ I let her know that my father was born on West End Avenue in the city and that he influenced me to be independent, so she forgave me.

“In the previous few years at the Gadsden Country Club in 2003, I had enjoyed playing golf in the old style, since it felt good to be in touch with the earth and since I kept hoping for another chip-in eagle. On our blue heron day, I took my shoes and socks off a few holes before No. 15.

“When we played golf with Mike and Susan Morgan, we usually played a scramble. On this day, Barbara and I were playing a best-ball scramble. As I stood on the tee, I was afraid that the blue heron in the lake was standing on shaky ground in the event that I hit what our fellow steel plant dew-sweeper, Pete Pinsura, called a worm-burner. Pete was the only golfer that I ever heard cuss before he ever hit his first ball. When my 8 a.m. group got to the No. 1 tee and Pete saw that the white tee had been moved back to where the blue tee usually was, he said his first cuss word.

“On October 4, 2003, the blue tee on No. 15 was set at 141 yards, almost all carry over the lake. I wiggled my toes in the cool earth and tried to swing smoothly to avoid the blue heron. My ball went high, straight to the green, landed about 15 feet from the hole and rolled in. Barbara and I were speechless, as was the blue heron.

“The local newspaper would not print my hole-in-one story because at that time, the paper required two witnesses in addition to the golfer. Either they did not believe Barbara, or they did not believe the Blue Heron. When Myron’s secretary called the newspaper and reported what I had done, it did not help my cause that she said, ‘Charlie Hart is a lawyer. He wouldn’t tell a lie.’”

Contact The Vagabond at dkcrown@bellsouth.net.

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