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The Winfield Courier  
Tuesday, June 19, 2001

Local man shoots hole-in-one  

Ray Rutherford, left, hit a hole-in-one at the Winfield Country Club Friday with the help of his playing partner, Leland Hopper. Rutherford, 85, is legally blind. (Shane T. Farley/Courier)

Disabled golfer aces 11th hole at Winfield Country Club.


Some might be impressed to know that Winfield's Ray Rutherford has two holes-in-one to his credit.

Others might marvel at the fact that Rutherford is 85 years old and got his latest hole-in-one last week at the Winfield Country Club.

But there is something else people should consider when weighing the man's feat: Ray Rutherford is legally blind.

Almost a decade ago a blood vessel burst in Rutherford's left eye. The blood that escaped clouded the vision in that eye for good. He had been blind in his right eye since he was young.

Rutherford can see a person five feet in front of him but can't distinguish their facial features.

"It's like seeing shadows," he said.

So when he stepped to the tee at the eleventh hole - a par three - Rutherford could barely make out the ball at his feet and he couldn't see the green or the flag 155 yards in front of him.

For help Rutherford turned to his trusty playing partner, Leland Hopper. When Rutherford lost his sight and had to stop driving, it was Hopper who offered to drive him to the golf course. They play together four or five times a week when it isn't too hot. Hopper helps his friend take aim.

"I'll help him out and tell him where the pin is," Hopper said, "unless he's ahead of me." The duo wisecrack all the time, even on the course.

When Rutherford hit the ball with his five iron, Hopper eyed it for him long enough to make sure it cleared the water hazard. "As long as I'm not in the water I'm happy," Rutherford said.

Hopper teed off, too, and then they headed toward the green to find their golf balls. Rutherford looked high and low but couldn't find his.

"Finally Leland told me to just drop a new ball and play it," Rutherford said. "So I did."

When the men continued to play, Rutherford chipped up onto the green and had a short putt left. He took aim and put the ball in the cup. When he reached in to retrieve his ball he found another one already there. It was the ball he had used for his first shot.

"I thought 'Hey, a hole-in-one,'" Rutherford said recalling his reaction.

"Yep, I saw it," Hopper said. "It was a hole-in-one."

He was excited about the shot but said neither he nor his partner celebrated too much.

"At my age if you get to jumping up and down you end up on the ground," he said and laughed wildly. He thinks his shot on 11 was "just luck."

Rutherford shot a 48 on nine holes that day. He usually scores between 50 and 55. He and Hopper golf for fun.

"We don't play good golf anymore," Hopper said, "so all we have now is fun."

Rutherford's first hole-in-one came 20 years ago just before he turned 65. He aced hole 17 at the country club back then at a time when his vision was fine.

Between 10 and 20 people score holes-in-one at the Winfield Country Club during an average year, said club manager Jeanie Wyckoff. Men, women and children play thousands of rounds each year, she said, and aces "come in spurts."

"It's really just a luck thing," Wyckoff said.

But even with failed vision Rutherford may have had more than just luck. He worked for several years at the club and in 1962 became grounds superintendent. When he retired he switched to hunting golf balls and playing golf at the course. The layout of the course is engrained in his memory, he said, so he can remember when he and his father - who also served as grounds superintendent - worked the course with a horse and buggy.

When he's not golfing Rutherford spends his time with his wife, Theora, and their four sons. Monday night the living room at his home on Manning was full of family members who were proud of Rutherford's latest triumph on the golf course. As Hopper left his friend's house, the two made plans to hit the course again.

"See ya tomorrow," Hopper asked.

"Yep, tomorrow," Rutherford replied.

This document was last modified June 19, 2001 and is copyright 2001 by the Winfield Publishing Co., Inc. All rights reserved.


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