How a 20-handicapper Irish golfer shot a hole in one and an albatross in one round

“Statistically, the chances of a hole in 1 are 12,000-to-1 and an albatross is 6 million-to-1. The odds of one of each in the same round…who knows? Some say it is 72 billion to one"
How a 20-handicapper Irish golfer shot a hole in one and an albatross in one round

Rowan McCarthy after his round in Perth last week

Rowan McCarthy is still pinching himself.

Last Wednesday on an Australian public golf course, the Cork man produced a feat that no PGA tour professional has ever achieved, including Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.

“I am still trying to get my head around it,” he laughs from Perth this morning. “Statistically, the chances of a hole in 1 are 12,000-to-1 and an albatross is 6 million-to-1. The odds of one of each in the same round…who knows? Some say it is 72 billion to one.” 

“It is a day I will never forget.” 

McCarthy (32) was born and raised in the Cork suburb of Douglas. He ‘messed’ around with golf and pitch and putt as a youngster. Back then his main passion was skateboarding, winning an All-Ireland championship as a teenager. 

He dabbled in poker while studying Mechanical Engineering in Cork IT winning a “sizeable tournament or two.” “Competitiveness was always in the blood,” he says by way of explanation.

McCarthy has been in Australia since 2011, where he works as a mechanical engineer and took up golf five years ago. “I am a committee member of the Irish Perth Golf Society, a friend of mine from Cork runs it and we have about 80 members. I’m also a member of the Perth Golf Network which is a much larger organization with close to 3000 members. They play more regular competitions like the one last week at Wembley Golf club.” 

McCarthy who plays off 20 - ‘I got it down to 14 last year and then it blew up to 20!’ - was competing in the B-group of the modified stableford competition.

Little in the front nine suggested that he would be hanging on for the prize-giving ceremony.

“I had a triple bogey on the 11th par 4,” he laughed, "but then my day changed on the 12th.” 

Scratch that, this was about to be a life-changer.

“It was 169 metres to the pin. It was the best seven iron that I ever hit. There was a little draw, and then boom it was rolling on the green. With the sun we didn’t see what exactly happened. One of the guys with our group said ‘I think it rattled the flag.’ 

 “We hopped into the carts and headed to the green. I was joking about having had a hole-in-one at Douglas Pitch and Putt club back in the day but they shot me down saying I couldn’t claim that as it wasn’t a golf course!

“One of the other guys got to the green before us and he started shouting ‘it is in the hole, it is in the hole.’ 

"I wasn’t buying it. I thought he was just trying to wind me up and catch me out. 

“So I went to see for myself and there was my ball sitting at the bottom of the hole.

“We started jumping around and shouting like mad. Another group were teeing off alongside us and they joined in with the celebrations. Apparently, we could be heard at the other side of the golf course.” 

Rowan after his hole in one
Rowan after his hole in one

The adrenaline was pumping - and soon, so too was the phone in McCarthy’s pocket.

“Naturally the guys put the news onto a WhatsApp group so the phone started hopping straight away. I was so excited. It felt surreal. I didn’t know what was going on. My mind was completely out of the game. I think I hit a double bogey on the next hole, then a triple bogey.” 

But McCarthy wasn't finished with the miracles just yet. An albatross was the ace up his sleeve.

McCarthy laughs: “People are calling it the five wildest holes in history.” 

The par five 15th was the scene for the clincher of this little piece of golfing history.

“I hit a good drive of about 250 metres, there is a bit of an arc and the ball rolled a bit after that. I was still about 185 metres out, in the sand, so I punched a five iron down. It came in at an angle on the green. Again we couldn’t see the ball though we knew it was on the green. When we realised it was in we started jumping, shouting and high fiving. It was just crazy.” 

According to Golf Digest (who ran an article on McCarthy this morning), a website tracks golfers who have achieved this incredible double. From their records, McCarthy will be the 22nd person registered on the list that includes legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden 

On the day, the Cork man shot 84, the third-best score of his life. And it was enough to win the competition.

Returning to the clubhouse, members were clapping and congratulating the new celebrity in their ranks.

He recalled: “The tradition for a hole-in-one is to buy everyone a drink but this is one of the biggest public courses in Perth and there were hundreds of people around so I bought drinks for everyone playing in the competition. The celebrations continued for days afterward. I have been getting calls and texts and interview requests ever since. It is amazing how far the story has travelled. I have an aunt in the US who was visiting a friend for dinner. The friend mentioned the story in passing without knowing the connection. My aunt was 'that was my nephew!"

Rowan's card
Rowan's card

What of the suggestion that he should put away the clubs now that his place amongst the greats has been secured: “That thought did enter my head, but I love it too much, the craic, the banter and the friendships I’ve made. I play off 20, hit thousands of bad shots over the years, there is lots of room for improvement and this will spur me on.” 

McCarthy is now building on his new found fame with an instagram account @shankmagic - The World’s Best Worst Golfer. He laughs: “It is a page inspired by the greatest five hole stretch of all time. The ambition is that this will influence and give hope to the average golfer that anything is possible.”

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