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A big bar tab: 2 aces in round for Irishman

There's the luck of the Irish.

Then there's the story of John O'Malley on St. Patrick's Day.

O'Malley is a 55-year-old who relocated to Charlotte just over five years ago and who, if the economy, health and schedules accommodate, gets together with a group of buddies from around the country to play golf and watch basketball the first week of the NCAA tournament.

This week, O'Malley and seven of his friends are in Charlotte to see Duke, North Carolina and each other.

They've already had their magic moment.

Twice.

Playing golf at Ballantyne Country Club on Thursday, O'Malley hit his 6-iron tee shot on the 149-yard, par-3 12th hole and liked it. Looking into the sun, O'Malley and his friends couldn't see his ball land.

His playing partners, Tom Grimm of Wilmington, Del., and Bill Lee from Cincinnati also hit good shots. When they got to the green, there were no golf balls to be seen.

One was over the green, another was in a bunker.

"I thought mine had probably hit the front of the green and bounced back in the water," O'Malley said.

In fact, O'Malley's ball was in the hole for his first ace.

"I was pretty excited," said O'Malley, a 13-handicap who plays mostly on weekends

It was about to get more exciting.

At the 100-yard, par-3 17th hole that plays over water, O'Malley wanted to hit his pitching wedge but realized he'd left it on an earlier hole. So he choked down on a 9-iron, hit a shot past the hole, then watched it roll back in the cup for his second ace in one hour.

"I literally fell down on the tee box," O'Malley said. "It was unbelievable."

The odds of something like that happening? Golf Digest reported an insurance company put the odds of two aces in the same round at 1 in 9,222,500.

In other words, it doesn't happen every day.

"I've read stories about people who have done things like that but never actually talked to one," Ballantyne pro Joe Maher said.

He has now.

The buzz rippled through the Ballantyne clubhouse and the bar was open - for an Irishman on St. Patrick's Day.

"My friend Bill said my wife wasn't going to believe it, but she will when she sees the bar bill," O'Malley said.

NOTES: The Paradise Valley Par-3 course will be dedicated today at 4 p.m. to the memory of Frank Ratcliffe. The ceremony, open to the public, coincides with the celebration of Ratcliffe's 100th birthday and the 50th anniversary of the opening of the course he built on Highway 29. The original course disappeared nearly 20 years ago, but his son, Del, created the Par-3 course that sits on a portion of the original property...

The Pit Golf Links in Aberdeen, recently purchased by Pinehurst Resort, will remain closed for the remainder of the year, the company announced this week.

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