SEEING as James Lehn has been playing golf for more than 40 years, his incredible hole-in-one can’t be considered pure beginner’s luck – but it’s not far off it.
The 61-year-old vision impaired golfer has been catching the train down or getting a lift from his wife, daughter or more recently his guide/caddy from his Grafton home and taking lessons from Coffs Harbour Golf Club head professional Matt Allan.
After years of being pestered by Allan to become a member at Coffs Harbour, Lehn finally relented and joined the club.
And that’s where this incredible story begins.
The right-hander came down with his trusted guide Tyler with his completed membership application in hand for Allan to sign as a proposer.
Fortunately, he was able to pay his fees that day as well.
“I was lucky that day. Normally the club’s office isn’t open on a Saturday to take memberships but it just happened that Hayley was there for the voting for the club board that I was able to pay my money,” Lehn said.
About half an hour after paying his fees, the new member was teeing off on the club’s West Lakes course for his first competition round at the club.
“Came out and teed up on the 19th with a huge head wind from the south, hit the ball and all the guys around me started jumping in the air,” he explained.
“Obviously I had no idea why but they told me the ball had gone in for a hole-in-one.
“I didn’t believe them but when I got down there and got the ball out of the hole and held it up to them, they all stood and cheered and cooeed and everything like that.
“I was still in disbelief that it even went that way because the wind was strong.
“You had to play the ball out so wide and have it come in. They said it came in from the right-hand side, and bounced up over the mounds and trickled across the green and dropped in the hole.
”One shot as a member, one hole-in-one.”
His playing partners that morning didn’t mind taking the opportunity to have a lend of him though. The magical shot was the first hole-in-one on the 19th hole since it was redeveloped: – An achievement that carried a prize of a handy credit which can be used in the pro-shop.
For a moment, Lehn thought the prize might’ve been much greater.
“They were all pulling my leg too. They were saying the prize was up to about $42,000 but that you had to be a member for at least three days to qualify,” he recalled.
This is the second hole-in-one for Lehn who recorded his first “many years ago in the racecourse at Grafton but that was when I could see”.
Lehn suffers from optic atrophy which has seen his eyesight decline for more than a decade,.
“My left eye has more or less had it. The right one has 3-60 vision which means if you can see a flag on the green that’s only 60 metres away, I’ll only be able to see it from three metres when I’m walking towards it,” he said.
“One time I used to be able to see a dimple on a golf ball and that was when I used to be able to play well. Now it’s just a blur. I use yellow golf balls specifically made by Titleist who are very helpful to me.
“At my feet it’s just a blur. It looks twice the size of a ball so I guess where it is.”
The lucky golfer used a 7-wood for his fateful swing.
“We’ve only just stuck it in the bag. We’ve got a new one coming soon. It’s getting fitted up at PING, an adaptive fitting for being a blind person and Matt’s organised all of that,” he said.
“It’s going to have special grips on it so I can put my hands on it and not lose where the club face is facing and things like that.”
“It’s one of the first sets in Australia. It’s going to be a visually assisted set of golf clubs,” Allan added.
prior to losing his sight, Lehn had been good enough to get this handicap down to scratch. These days, with his obvious limitation, he’s still managing a G.A Handicap of 11.
Matt Allan said that his long history of playing good golf makes his role of coaching Lehn a lot easier.
“James is pretty accomplished considering his limitations. He’s played golf for a lot of years so there’s a lot of muscle memory there.
“So it’s just about connecting more with his feel and also sound, using that a bit and working on set-up. Making sure he’s in the right position, being balanced; the sort of things that he can feel.”