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Golfer hits one-in-a-million shot off gator

By Roger Greene
Coastal Observer

Those who play golf regularly know the sport can be like the proverbial box of chocolates. With each round, players never really know exactly what they are going to get.

Still, Galer Wright, 83, redefined "unprecedented" during a round in October when his approach shot on Heritage Plantation's 18th hole ricocheted off an alligator before finding its way onto the green and stopping 20 feet from the pin.

For his efforts, Wright was given the "Alligator Hall of Fame Award" at the year-end meeting of Heritage's men's golf association.

Not that an award was necessary to remind anyone of Wright's feat.

"I can't recall anything like this ever happening," said Gary Johnson, Heritage's golf pro. "You hear all the time about unusual shots, but I'm not sure anything could top hitting the ball off an alligator."

Golf Digest named Heritage one of the 50 best public golf courses in America, and No. 18 is known as a hole where anything can happen. A par-5 measuring roughly 487 yards from the blue tees, the hole has a cuttable corner, but the water hazard that runs down the right side and in front of the green can make for a daunting approach shot.

After finding the green on his approach, Wright went on to three putt and bogey the hole.

Of course, the three putts were lost in the excitement of his second shot. To everyone but apparently the gator that is. "The alligator appeared startled when hit by the ball, shook his head and remained in its location," Wright said.

Since it happened, the story of Wright's shot has taken on a life of its own. In this high-tech age, news travels fast and Wright has received numerous calls from inside and outside the area from friends and others interested in the story.

The PGA of America is set to do a feature in one of its official publications sometime in the next few months.

Heritage Plantation has also been able to benefit from the publicity and employees are having fun with the experience.

"I’ve had to rethink some of my teaching methods," Johnson said with a laugh. "I've added a toy gator to the practice range when people are in doubt, I just tell them to aim for it."

As for the "Alligator Hall of Fame Award," Wright may be its lone recipient.

"If we have another miracle shot similar to Mr. Wright's we will be presenting another award," said Rich Campbell, president of the men's association.

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