If you make a hole a one at Castle Oaks, you’re given a form to fill out with the details that the course faxes to the newspaper.
After asking for your name and the date, the third question on the form: Is this your first hole in one?
For the first 77 years, four months and six days of Joe Fanelli’s life, the answer would have been: Yes.
One day later, however, the answer was: No.
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After sporadically playing self-described mediocre golf for 52 years, Fanelli made his first ace Aug. 1 at Antelope Greens. He used a pitching wedge from 108 yards on No. 15. On Aug. 2 at Castle Oaks, he used the same club from 99 yards on No. 16.
Fanelli said he thought his ball was over the green when he made his first ace. He thought his ball was in the hazard short of the green on his second. Such is the mindset of a golfer who hadn’t made a hole in one since he took up the game in 1965, standing in line at Haggin Oaks at 5:30 a.m. to get a starting time on the red or blue nine.
“I don’t know anybody more surprised than me,” he said of last week’s turn of events.
Fanelli is a retired plumber who lives in El Dorado, equidistant from Castle Oaks and Empire Ranch, the closest public options each 30 minutes away. “Practice” consists of occasionally chipping in his front yard. He doesn’t have an established handicap. He keeps score about half the time. He usually plays once a week, last week being an anomaly. His lifetime best is an 84 at Empire a few years back.
“I’m not a good golfer,” he said. “I try to get in the 90s sometimes. If I get in the 80s I feel great about myself.”
Fanelli doesn’t like play in tournaments, so he has no golf trophies. That’s about to change.
“I sent out for two plaques for this because, gosh, it seems like I should,” he said.
Ben Corfee, a 23-year-old amateur from Davis, Tom Morton, the 42-year-old director of golf instruction at Haggin Oaks, and Tyler Raber, a 27-year-old pro from Davis, competed in their first PGA Tour event at last week’s Barracuda Championship at Montreux Country Club in Reno.
They were far from the biggest names in the field, but they had some of the biggest galleries. They each missed the cut, but said the experience was special. Corfee played his first seven holes in 4 under to briefly get his name near the top of the leaderboard.
Each said seeing some of the world’s best pros up close was eye-opening – their short-game prowess and putting impressed Corfee and Raber, while Morton was wowed by their length off the tee and how consistently solid they struck the ball.
Morton’s takeaway: “It’s no secret that it fulfilled a lifelong dream. I felt prepared physically. I could not have been prepared mentally for the nerves I felt. Overall, I played reasonable. I didn’t expect to win or contend, for goodness sake. I didn’t embarrass myself.”
Next for Morton: “I want to help pass along all the stuff I learned to the people I help with the game.”
Corfee’s takeaway: “Golf is golf. It’s a little different with a lot of people around, but in the end you’re still just playing golf. It wasn’t the result I was hoping for, but I walked away taking more positives than negatives from it, for sure.”
Next for Corfee: The U.S. Amateur next week in Los Angeles, then turning pro and starting the Web.com qualifying tournament process in September.
Raber’s takeaway: “I hit the ball plenty well enough to compete on the next level. It’s just a matter of being a lot better around the greens and putting, especially speed putting and close-range putting. I did neither of those things well.”
Next for Raber: Monday qualifiers for West Coast PGA Tour events, then consider playing on the PGA Tour Latin America to gain experience in four-day events and potentially gain an exemption from early stage Web.com Tour qualifying.
Senior Am qualifiers
▪ Jim Sewell of El Dorado Hills qualified for the U.S. Senior Amateur, to be played later this month in Minnesota.
▪ Lynne Cowan of Rocklin qualified for the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, to be played next month in Portland, Ore.
Steve Pajak: 916-326-5526