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Two-for-One(s) Deal

Paul Richards did the most prudent of things. He bought a lottery ticket.

It made sense because he had just accomplished something with much longer odds than purchasing a winning Megabucks slip. He and golf partner Ron Mankins each made a hole-in-one on the same hole while in the same group at Bear Creek Golf Course on Friday.

In fact, they were the group. It was a twosome, further stretching the boundaries of probability and confounding convention.

"We were pretty excited," said Richards. "It felt like a lucky day, too, so I went out and bought a lottery ticket."

Maybe lightning will strike twice, for big odds seem there for the taking after Richards and Mankins aced the 93-yard fourth hole.

The odds of two players in a foursome making a hole-in-one on the same hole are 17 million to one. That's the calculation of Francis Scheid, a retired chairman of the Boston University math department who was hired to do such figuring by Golf Digest in 2000.

The odds would be much greater for both members of a twosome to do so.

Meanwhile, odds for winning a state lottery are generally placed at about 18 million to one.

How unlikely was this occurrence?

Consider that the aces were the first for each player; that, combined, they've put in more than a century's time playing the game; and that, based on their handicap indexes, both are slightly below bogey level golfers.

With all that working against them, Richards, 72, and Mankins, 70, stepped up and rocked golfdom.

"It's a good thing I didn't have a heart attack," laughed Richards, who first moved to the Rogue Valley in 1994 from Alaska, where he had a pipeline service business.

Each winter, he returns to Alaska and serves as a legislative lobbyist.

Richards took up golf at age 20 and played sparingly until he had time to fully enjoy it in later years. He's always loved the game, though, to the extent he's been to three British Opens.

Mankins got the golf bug at age 9, when he caddied at a private club in the San Francisco area. He began playing at age 14 in San Mateo, Calif., and shelved it only when he was involved in other sports in high school.

He's a retired Siskiyou County probation officer who works part-time in the Bear Creek pro shop.

Mankins' brother, Al, is an everyday player in Lake County, Calif., and he has six holes-in-one.

"Two on his birthday," said Mankins.

"I thought I'd never get one," he said. "Some people live their whole lives and never get one, but doggone if I didn't get one on the same hole at the same time as an old friend. Unbelievable."

The two were playing their weekly men's club round at Bear Creek, which has a par of 29 for nine holes. There was a lull in activity on the course, said owner and head professional Marla Corbin, because the wave of early morning play had subsided.

A shadow draped over the green as the sun climbed, and Richards, whose handicap index is 19.7, stepped up first. In his hands was a 51-degree gap wedge; in his mind, not a trace of a notion of holing out.

"I always have doubts of me — or anyone — making a hole-in-one," he admitted, reflecting on years of so many too-good-to-be-true shots. "I wish they'd go in, but they don't."

He applied a smooth, flowing swing and watched the ball head for the flag in the middle of the green.

"I said, 'Geez, that's a good shot, but I can't see it,'" Richards said.

Mankins, who said he has slightly better eyesight for distances, told Richards it must have gone in the hole.

"Naw," said Richards. "They never do."

But it looked to be a splendid shot, nonetheless, and Mankins, whose index is 22.9, had his work cut out.

Richards chided his friend to "beat that "… it's got to be close."

Mankins deliberated, 9-iron in hand.

"He's one who takes time to study his shot, then gets in position and hits it," said Richards.

Mankins' attempt rivaled Richards' for beauty. The difference was, he saw his bounce a couple times, then disappear into the cup.

"We yelled and there were high-fives and hugs and that sort of thing," said Mankins.

They walked to the green, and Richards didn't see his ball in the back. Mankins told him to check the hole, and when Richards peered in, he was flabbergasted.

"Oh, you won't believe this," he said.

Sure enough.

A single, Gary Reed, had come up behind them when they were on the tee and bore witness. After the excitement settled, he signed their scorecard and they continued their round.

When the pair returned to the pro shop, Mankins handed Corbin the scorecard.

"He said he wanted me to take a look at hole No. 4," said Corbin, who has been part or full owner of the course for 25 years. "I saw the two 'No. 1's' and thought that must be their putts or something. But it was on their score line. Then they went into their story."

Part of the story is that ace wasn't good enough to win a skin. Players put money in for a skins pot, and if one player stands alone with the best score on a hole, he gets a skin. The pot is divided by the number of skins won in the round.

"What Ron said was the kicker," said Richards. "He said, 'I kinda killed your skin.'"

That wasn't all. Mankins shot a 34, bettering Richards by four strokes.

"I didn't win anything today," said Richards, "except excitement and a moment that will last forever."

One dilemma hadn't been immediately resolved: Who gets the lone scorecard showing two aces?

For now, Corbin has it for scoring purposes.

Perhaps there's a capable forger out there.

Regardless, Mankins wasn't too concerned. He was still reveling in the moment.

"Nothing compares to a hole-in-one," he said. "I don't care how short the hole is. We're not great golfers."

On this day, they were.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com

Ron Mankins, 70, left, and Paul Richards, 72, pose on the green where each recorded the first aces of their lives on the 93-yard fourth hole at Bear Creek Golf Course. - Jamie Lusch