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Jul 30, 2023

An Albatross: Local Lady Golfer Shares Most Memorable Shot

Cheryl Ricer

Photography By

When she came home and told her husband that she wanted to take up golf, he thought she had lost her mind. Nonetheless, Sharon got a used set of clubs, took a few lessons, and they’ve been playing ever since.

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Sharon Duncan didn’t exactly like golf in the beginning…

Sharon Duncan’s love for the game of golf began as more of a “hate” relationship than “love.” Her husband Richard worked for Milliken and Co.; she was in the medical field; and the couple had two children. They were an active family—in church and school and sports. From time to time, Richard played corporate golf and with cousins and brothers-in-law at family gatherings. Although he loved the game, Sharon didn’t want him to play due to the time it required away from family and the expense of the game.

In 1997, the Duncan’s son was graduating from high school and heading to college, and their daughter would be graduating in 2000. Through the years, the family had listened to Focus on the Family, a radio broadcast by James Dobson, which provided the young couple with a wealth of information on how to raise a family. 

“I remember one broadcast in particular in the late spring of 1997,” Sharon said. “It basically advised those looking toward an empty nest to find something they would enjoy doing together. Golf immediately came to my mind as I knew this was something that Richard truly loved.”

When she came home and told her husband that she wanted to take up golf, he thought she had lost her mind. Nonetheless, Sharon got a used set of clubs, took a few lessons, and they’ve been playing ever since.

After their children both left home, the couple decided to downsize. After 16 years of living on the eastside of Spartanburg, they sold their home and moved to River Falls, a golf course community in, of all places, Duncan, South Carolina (and eventually to Hilton Head Island). Many days, after work, they would unwind by playing nine holes; then on weekends they would play at least 18 holes.

As Sharon’s game improved, she began to experience a variety of successes—both as an individual golfer and on a team with her husband. “I have had two eagles from the fairway on par 4s and witnessed each one of them rolling into the cup,” she said. “After the first eagle, I couldn’t wait to get to work on Monday morning to tell my boss about the great shot. When I excitedly told him that I had had an eagle over the weekend, he looked at me and said, ‘Oh it’s just luck.’ I was devastated. Maybe a little luck was involved, but I knew that if I had not been aiming for the flag, it wouldn’t have gone in.”

Sharon has also had several birdies along the way. She frequently gets asked, “Have you ever had a hole in one?” and her answer is, “Honestly, yes, in my dreams!”

During her second year of playing golf, she and Richard played 18 holes at Lan Yair Country Club in Spartanburg. On practically every hole, she would watch his approach shot hit the green and spin right 10 to 12 feet. After going to bed that night, just into the dream state, she stood up on a par 3 and hit her tee shot.

“My ball hit the green, spun right 10 feet and went in the hole,” she said. “With my arms in the air, I mumbled something unintelligible. Richard just started laughing and asked me what was going on. I said, ‘I just got a hole-in-one!’”

Sharon’s greatest shot ever, though, was no dream. It was June 7, 2022—International Women’s Golf Day. Shipyard Golf Club organized a Ladies Day to commemorate the event. Each foursome had a country to represent, and Duncan’s team was assigned Uruguay, whose colors are blue and white with a touch of yellow. Carts were decorated with flags and streamers and flowers, or anything to promote the teams’ countries. The format was a scramble, and Duncan’s team started on Brigantine. The first two holes were par 4s, and the team got pars on both holes. Hole No. 3 was a 401-yard par 5 from the ladies forward tees.

“We each hit drives, and mine was crazy long,” Sharon said. “I hit a Ping G5 driver, which came out in 2005, making it 17 years old. The fairway grass was short and dry, just the way I like it. I have a natural draw, and I get a lot of roll. My drive was 225 yards, leaving 176 yards to the pin.”

The group in front of Sharon’s team was still on the green, so she asked her teammates if they would go ahead and hit since she needed to wait for the green to clear. When clear, she pulled out her somewhat new, shiny Heavenwood (a club made by Calloway with a 4-wood head on a 7-wood shaft) and nailed the shot. It flew perfectly straight, hit the ground and rolled right into the hole.

“I was hopeful but had to actually see it in the hole with my own eyes,” she said. “My teammates were certain that it went in the hole. Sure enough, when we got to the green and didn’t see the ball, we ran to the hole, and there it was! I had achieved an albatross—a score of two on a par 5 with odds of one in six million—a very rare accomplishment and something that Tiger Woods has never even done. One of my teammates, was ecstatic. She said, ‘It was the greatest shot I’ve ever witnessed!’ It was certainly a fun day and one that I will never forget.”

Sharon’s attitude toward golf drastically changed over time, and she now says that she agrees with the movie, golf is The Greatest Game Ever Played!

“It’s a sport that can be played for a lifetime,” she said, “and there are beautiful golf courses anywhere you travel. Now, my husband and I are enjoying our retirement years in beautiful Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, where we can play golf to our hearts’ content.”

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