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ufojoe

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: May 29, 2007, 01:41:23 AM

http://sports.espn.go.com/golf/news/story?id=2881134

Gagne has tons of ones

By John Strege
Golf World

Updated: May 24, 2007, 12:51 PM ET

The diameter of a golf hole is 4¼ inches, or usually too small to accommodate a ball when it's struck from anywhere outside 3 feet. What then are we to make of a demure California woman for whom the hole from a distance of 100 yards or more ostensibly has become more gaping than the ubiquitous pools in the desert community where she lives? That she's good? That she's lucky? That she's lying?

The movie "The Hoax" recently opened in theaters, the timing less than fortuitous, a friend reminded her. Jacqueline Gagne, 46, claims to have made 10 holes-in-one since Jan. 23, a streak of sharpshooting that defies odds, certainly, but all manner of logic as well.

"I think there's some kind of mathematical disturbance going on, like a few years ago, when the earth rotated a little weird and time was off," says friend Linda Hogg, a witness to two of Gagne's aces. She was referencing the 2004 Indonesian earthquake that triggered a deadly tsunami and was said to have caused the earth's rotation to accelerate.
Jacqueline Gagne

Golf Digest

Gagne has defied all odds with 10 holes-in-one since Jan. 23.

Absent a better theory, it will have to suffice to explain 10 aces in a stretch of 80 rounds by a retired computer programmer who carries an 8 handicap and a 13-wood, and has a passion for a game to which she was introduced less than five years ago.

"It's a little surreal," says Gagne, sitting at a table in her artfully appointed home adjacent to the first hole of the Gary Player Signature Course at the Westin Mission Hills Resort in Rancho Mirage, Calif. "It's crazy. There are a lot of skeptics out there, but I try to stay away from all that."

Skeptics understandably abound. Dean Knuth is a Naval Academy graduate who developed the USGA's course and slope-rating system and accordingly has a healthy aversion to sandbaggers. Asked whether Tiger Woods, from 130 yards, hitting a bucket of balls a day for a month, would hole 10 of them, Knuth says: "I don't think he would."

It is inadequate simply to describe what Gagne is said to have accomplished as mathematically improbable. We asked one of the world's foremost mathematicians, Joseph B. Keller, professor emeritus of mathematics and mechanical engineering at Stanford, to compute the odds of making 10 aces in 80 rounds (using a previous finding by Golf Digest that the odds of an average player making an ace in any given round are 1 in 5,000). Keller's answer: "Roughly two chances out of 10 followed by 24 zeros. This is the same chance as picking one particular molecule out of all the molecules in 50 gallons of air."

Yet if Gagne has perpetuated a hoax, she has done so in defiance of her reputation ("She's a real sweetheart," Hogg says, a sentiment shared by many) and with the cooperation of a labyrinth of co-conspirators, including both the director of golf and a respected teaching pro at a high-profile country club, Mission Hills. Her aces have come on six different courses, all of them prominent in this desert golf hotbed, in both tournament and recreational rounds, and playing with a mix of friends and strangers.

"The thing is, I know probably 26 or 28 witnesses to these things," says Robert Barnes, the director of golf at Mission Hills, where Gagne is a member. "I know it's happened. How it happened or why it happened, I can't answer that."

The first ace required that Barnes confirm its authenticity. It happened Jan. 23, on the 17th hole of the Arnold Palmer Course at Mission Hills, in a three-day ladies invitational that featured a hole-in-one prize -- a trip to any property owned by ClubCorp, Mission Hills' parent company. Barnes was responsible for interviewing the witnesses.

Four days later Gagne made her second ace, on Mission Hills' Pete Dye Challenge Course, where she has made four in 2007, including the fourth, fifth and seventh in the series. Ace No. 7 came on guest day, in a shotgun start on her first hole, the 135-yard 11th. Hogg, her playing partner, explained to her guest, Amanda Berry, that Gagne had developed a proclivity for holes-in-one and suggested to Gagne that she go ahead and make another to get it out of the way. She did. "You're freaking me out," Berry said.

A week later Gagne made her eighth of the year, at Mountain View CC in La Quinta, this one taking her story national following an account by golf writer Larry Bohannan in the Desert Sun newspaper. Her feat piqued the interest of "The Late Show with David Letterman"; a representative of the show phoned Bohannan, seeking contact information for Gagne. But before Bohannan could deliver the message to her, she had recorded two more holes-in-one, April 30 and May 2.

The latter came at the Palms GC in La Quinta. She pulled her tee shot at the 162-yard 16th hole, and the group initially was unable to find her ball. The host, Marcy Hyman, 86, was accompanied by her caregiver, who finally walked over to the hole and peeked in. Gagne's ball was there, apparently having caromed off a tree.

"Jackie started shaking," says Miki Barnblatt, who was playing with Gagne and has witnessed two of her aces. "She said she was starting to freak herself out. If I wasn't there, I wouldn't have believed it. Abracadabra."

Yet Gagne's feat is more mystical than magical -- either that or the witnesses need their lying eyes examined. Corroboration, however, is abundantly available. Don Balleto of Vancouver, British Columbia, has seen two of them. "I lost bets both times," he says. Dr. Barbara Kreedman, a Palm Desert psychologist, confirmed witnessing another, as well as an 11th hole-in-one Gagne made in a tournament at Brookside CC in Stockton, Calif., last August.

"I'm just playing golf and having a good time," Gagne says, though the attention she has garnered is overwhelming. She has hired a public-relations firm, Elaine Koch & Co., to represent her.

"I really didn't think anything of it, even up to No. 8," Gagne says. "I just thought, 'This is really lucky.'"

Or not. Her champagne bill at the 19th hole has run into the thousands, she says. Dom Perignon, the usual choice, is an effervescent equivalent of the quality of her game of late.

She often plays five days a week, and her teacher is Mike Mitchell, who has worked with several PGA Tour pros, John Cook among them. "She's a tremendously improved player," Mitchell says. "The holes-in-one, they're primarily luck. Let's call it what it is. But luck is preparation for opportunity. She's put herself in a position to be lucky because she's hitting more quality shots and putting the ball on the green more frequently and the ball is finding the hole. The other thing is, you start believing in that, so when you step on the tee, you're thinking it might happen to you again. Until you've made a hole-in-one, you don't think about it.

"It's amazing what she's done," Mitchell adds. "I can't explain it. But I have no reason to have any doubts that she's done it. As far as I know, every one of those holes-in-one have been attested."

Barnes calls it "the darndest thing I've ever heard of," and as an alumnus of the defunct United States Football League he no doubt has a catalog of oddities from which to choose. "It doesn't matter where she hits it," he says. "I don't know. It's one of those freak things that happens once in a while. I've had one [ace] in 49 years of living and 39 of those being able to play golf."

There is no accounting for luck, of course, and Gagne apparently is luckier than most. Last week, at the height of the frenzy, she and friends decided a visit to the nearby Agua Caliente Casino was in order. Gagne inserted a $5 bill into a slot machine, she says, and within 20 minutes she had won $650.
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