Alberta golfer fights to claim hole-in-one prize SUV from summer tournament

Percy Potts said a last minute prayer before swinging his club on the par-3, 17th hole at Goose Hummock golf course. The ball landed eight feet from the hole, then spun backwards.

“To see it go in that time, I lost my mind. I can still see that shot today,” Potts recalled  in a recent interview with CBC News.

For 36-year-old Potts it was his first-ever hole-in-one — clinching the grand prize at the Alexander First Nation Golf Open on Aug. 24.

Three months later, Potts is still trying to claim the 2019 Ford Escape.

“It should have been the best time in my life,” Potts said. “It was actually at the time because I didn’t know all this was coming.”

Hole In One Direct, an insurance company that insures long-shot big-ticket prizes, denied the claim. 

In a letter to Alexander Forest Service, the company outlined the reasons for the denial: conflicting accounts of hole setup and yardage verification as well as player registration and draw procedures.

“Photos of the tee box and green the day of the tournament were not provided,” states the letter dated Oct. 16.

Potts said he made unsuccessful attempts to claim his vehicle by contacting golf tournament organizers Laverne Arcand and Harvey Burnstick. They have declined comment.

“No comment, our legal counsel is working on it,” Arcand wrote to CBC in a brief text.

Percy Potts holds up the keys to the prize-winning SUV at the Alexander First Nation Golf Open. (Percy Potts)

Potts — a  golfer who shoots in the 70s —  first heard about the tournament on Facebook. Excited by the prospect of winning a brand new vehicle, he postponed his family’s vacation to B.C. 

The day of the event, Potts’ wife dropped him off and headed off to car shop to replace their broken down 2001 used Saturn.

It didn’t take long for him to upgrade his ride — he aced his second hole of the round and immediately spotted his new white SUV.

“The guys behind me were like, ‘that’s your car’ and it just hit me ‘oh shit that is my car’. So I went running … I opened the door and I jumped inside. I was sitting behind the wheel, imagining myself driving down the road.”

‘Fell in love with it’

Growing up on Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, 80 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, Potts credits golf with saving his life. 

When he was 12, Potts burned his face fooling around with gunpowder. Prone to infection, he couldn’t play most sports so he donned a mask and gloves and his father taught him how to play golf. Every year his dad paid the $200 fee so Potts could practice at the Ironhead Golf & Country Club, about a 30-minute drive from home. 

“I just fell in love with it. I’ve been playing ever since then,” Potts said. “I’m pretty sure if I had a little bit of backing, I probably could have gone a long way.”

In his teens, after his parents split and his dad left, Potts would strap his golf clubs on his back at 5 a.m., and hitch a ride to the latest tournament — often dropped off by people still out partying from the night before. 

On the golf course, Potts stood out with his Mohawk haircut, jeans and Ramones T-shirt. A couple of times, he was even kicked out because he couldn’t afford to dress the part. 

Potts learned to make the most of his mishmash of used clubs and hand-me-downs as he surfed the Golf Town website, imagining his dream-set. When he worked at Nevada Bobs, the owner gifted him with a set of gleaming new TaylorMade clubs worth $3,000.

“That was like one of the best days of my life because I had a driver, I had a 3-wood, I had the irons, I had the wedges and I had the putter. He even gave me a bag.”

Potts’ winnings ranged from hundreds to thousands of dollars. He helped his mom pay the bills and buy groceries then tucked away enough to pay for the next tournament.

But he had never won a vehicle, so when offered the choice between cash or the SUV, the answer was obvious. 

“I was like ‘Hell no, I’m taking the vehicle. I’ve never had a brand new vehicle that’s how much it meant to me,” said Potts, who is currently borrowing his mom’s car to get his family around. “I’ve never had a brand new vehicle in my life. I’ve always had to fix my vehicles when they breakdown. I could never afford the price of a vehicle.”

At the ceremony Potts was presented with $1,800 — he’d placed third overall in the tournament and snagged a closest-to-the-pin prize as well. 

A photo shows a smiling Potts holding up the keys to his new Ford Escape before he had to give them back. He was told he could claim the SUV in a few weeks once the paperwork was sorted out.

“To finally get something like that, brand new, that I could never get on my own … and then they just take it away like that —  it was really devastating,” Potts said.

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