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Golfers attempt to sink a hole-in-one into a 15-inch cup. The traditional size is 4.25 inches. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
Golfers attempt to sink a hole-in-one into a 15-inch cup. The traditional size is 4.25 inches. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
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Golfers swing into action to help wounded troops

FAIRBANKS RANCH — Jeff Gearhart recently earned some major bragging rights. The once-a-month golfer from Rancho Bernardo shot not only his first hole-in-one, but a second as well during a Jan. 12 fundraiser at Fairbanks Ranch Country Club.

In the name of full disclosure, both were from 50 yards out and hit a cup nearly four times larger than the traditional hole.

But despite the easier-than-normal target, Gearhart was one of only 14 golfers out of nearly 200 to sink a hole-in-one during the inaugural 15-Inch Hole-in-One Cup Challenge to benefit Operation Game On.

The first was made about 35 minutes into the event by Nancy Neglia.

“I just got lucky, I guess,” she said after making her 75-yard shot.

Participants paid $150 for 20 golf balls which they tried to get in cups either 50, 75, 100 or 150 yards away to win $150, $250, $500 or $1,000, respectively. Ten winners hit the 50-yard mark and none sunk one from the two farthest distances.

The payouts would have totaled $2,650 but $1,100 was donated back to Operation Game On, a program created in 2008 by Tony Perez that provides golf lessons and equipment for severely physically and mentally injured soldiers, most of them undergoing treatment at Naval Medical Center San Diego and Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton.

The three-hour event included free beverages, mostly compliments of sponsor Tito’s Handmade Vodka , Dang Brother Pizza, tacos, sandwiches from Jersey Mike’s, a putting contest and a silent auction featuring golf packages to play at area courses, golf equipment, a healthy cooking class and restaurant certificates.

All participants were entered to win either two tickets to the Masters or a round of golf for two at Pebble Beach.

Gearhart, who made his first hole in one on his first shot, won the drawing and opted for the Pebble Beach package.

“A Padres player actually won, but he had left,” Perez said. “Another Padre said to redraw since he had already left. It was Jeff’s day.”

Gearhart also won the putting contest and was the only participant to make two holes-in-one.

Other winners were Scott Isbell, Al Duemey, Ralph Linder, Bill Fredrick, Tony Hutchinson, Jeff Javelet, Greg Rogers, Ed Cuff, Archie Kuehn, Steve Finley, John Jacobs and Bill Franzblau.

Perez said the idea came from his longtime friend Mike Spacciapolli.

“He called me up one day and asked me what I thought,” Perez said. “I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ Fairbanks Ranch was all over it. Eight weeks later, here we are.”

Perez said he was hoping to raise about $22,000 after expenses. “But it’s looking like around $30,000 with about 190 people showing up,” he added. “Not too bad for a first-time event. And most of those attending are new supporters of OGO.”