Technically speaking, it was a hole in one – two holes in one in fact. But this was no ordinary golf shot. More of a golf manoeuvre.
Whether, in the history of golf, too many balls have ever dropped into a hole after being dropped out of a helicopter before is open to question – but they managed it in a spectacular charity stunt at Cowdray Park Golf Club at Midhurst.
It was carried out by Lee-on-the-Solent based Atlas Helicopters and looks to have raised more than £4,000 for Treloar School and College, a non-maintained special school/college for severely disabled children in Alton.
Cowdray Park, great supporters of Treloar’s, created a temporary hole on the 18th fairway where 1,000 balls were dropped by the chopper.
The crazy idea was the branichild of Atlas Helicopters’ managing director Mike Burns after he was asked to sponsor Treloar’s Burns Night dinner.
He was the man at the controls as the copter hovered 90ft above the green – while his colleague Roy Adams had the unenviable task of sitting at the open side of the aircraft, fully strapped in, of course, and releasing the balls at the right time. They were delighted to see two go in the hole, with many others pretty close.
“As a proud Scot, the Burns night sounded fun but I felt we could do more to help. Having seen American golf ball drops on YouTube I thought it would be better not just for fundraising, but also raising awareness of the great work happening at Treloar,” said Mr Burns.
“Although the students are in a tough physical situation they are in a brilliant place and I saw this first hand on a visit to the school.
“You enter Treloar feeling awful for the students and their situation, but quickly pick up such a heartwarming appreciation of the effort both teachers and students put into each lesson, that you leave with a lot of optimism for their future.”
Joanna Edson, Treloar’s events and community fundraiser, was delighted by the success of the fundraiser.
“It’s fabulous to have this unique support from Atlas Helicopters and on behalf of all the students and staff at Treloar’s I would like to say a huge thank you. Here at Treloar’s we constantly develop individual solutions for our students and it is therefore apt to have such an innovative event taking place on our behalf,” she said.
Brian Dormer of Cowdray Park Golf Club was equally enthusiastic, and was keen to host the event while supporting Treloar’s.
The golf ball drop was thought to be the first of its kind in England and a mass of paperwork and approvals was required to drop something from an aircraft.
“As an idea it sounds quite simple,” said Mr Burns, “but the level of paperwork is really high and I almost know by heart Article 129 of the Air Navigation Order. However compared to what the students at Treloar achieve every day it pales to insignificance.”
The 1,000 numbered golf balls cost £5 each to sponsor and the two winners are set to receive £500, with the remaining money going to Treloar School and College.
Atlas Helicopters was established in 2001 in response to the ever-increasing helicopter charter and hire market within the UK and near Continent. With operational bases in Lee, London, Biggin Hill, Redhill and Stapleford they have become one of the leading providers of business helicopter flights and private helicopter charter in the UK.
See the rest of the local (and more conventional) golf news in the Chichester Observer and The News today