Sterchi, a retired coach and principal in the Hamilton County school system and now a consultant with Silverdale Baptist Academy, could not have selected a better time to put a 1 on his scorecard.
Playing in the annual Lee University Stanley Butler Shootout at Chatata Valley Golf Club with Mike Palmer, Walter Howard and Doug Storey, Sterchi selected a 4-iron hybrid for his shot on the par 3, 168-yard hole.
“I knew it was exactly 168 yards to the hole,” said Sterchi. “The two Lee coaches (John Maupin and Chad Wilson) were at the tee box and said they had measured the distance. Also, one of my partners had a range finder. I just wanted to make sure my shot reached the green.”
Sterchi, who had come close to a hole-in-one over the years, launched his shot. “I knew I had hit the green and the ball was rolling toward the hole, but I lost track,” he admitted. “All at once my partners started shouting, ‘It went in the hole! It went in!”
The veteran golfer is one of those guys who has to see it before he believes it. As his golf cart neared the green, he quickly looked across the green. There wasn’t a ball to be seen. He knew all three of his partners had earlier missed the green with their shots and he rushed to the pin placement.
Retrieving his golf ball from the bottom of the cup not only made his longstanding dream come true, it was worth a cash prize of $10,000 given to anyone with a hole-in-one on No. 8 in the tournament.
“I pulled out my cellphone and called my wife (Debbie),” he said. “I told her something had just happened and she allowed I might have been in a car wreck! I quickly assured her I was all right and I’d just won $10,000. She went crazy.”
Sterchi has two plans for his winnings. He’s going to take his wife of 41 years on a nice trip, and then after giving Uncle Sam his share and allowing the church a percentage, he’ll begin trying to replace his 1997 Blazer.
“It is showing 170,000 miles and the air conditioner hasn’t worked for two years, so I’m going to be searching for a car, not a new one, but something a little newer.”
He also might offer a few words of encouragement to thousands of golfers still searching for that first hole-in-one. “Don’t give up! I play in a few tournaments with friends and I love playing and traveling to other courses.” And now he has a great hole-in-one story to share with all his golfing friends.
The overall team winners of the Shootout with a 57 were Gary Rominger, Matt Crowder, Tarry Walker and Harry Ledford. Bob McIntire, Marty Rowe, Pam Rowe and Jayne Maupin posted a 60 for second place, while Orville Robinson, Jeff Salyer, Larry Carpenter and Ryan Hulton claimed third place with a 63.
The first flight winners were declared after a scorecard playoff. Don Crews, Pete Thompson, Eddie Crews and Blake Crews claimed the top prize with a 68. Chase Thompson, Travis Godfrey, Gabe McGraw and Greg Phillips settled for second with their 68. Jason Browning, Chris Fox, Jeremy Thayer and Mike Garrod took third with a 69.
The longest drive prize went to Pam Rowe. Jeff Davis was closest to the pin at No. 2. Tripp Bettis was the closest at 14 and Eddie Crews rounded out the prize winners by being closest to the pin at 16.
“I want to thank Chatata Valley Golf Course, their entire staff, and all of our sponsors for helping us host our annual athletic department fundraiser,” said Lee golf coach John Maupin. “I thought it was a great day, and everyone enjoyed themselves. We were able to enjoy some time with people who have always been supportive of our programs.
“The shot of the day is an easy choice, as Lebron Sterchi made a hole-in-one for a $10,000 cash prize! It was quite an exciting moment! We were also able to give out some great door prizes, and I hope we can continue to grow this event in the future years.”