The pickup truck was parked behind the fourth tee, a 198-yard par three. The price tag on the rear window was $27,000, including dealer prep and sugar undercoating and fancy floor mats and all that other stuff the real cost of which is difficult to comprehend. It was deep red, with an empty, immaculate bed waiting for golf clubs or firewood or a nice sofa to be loaded.

The truck was free to the first golfer in this charity tournament to make a hole-in-one on this ridiculously difficult, uphill par three. The hole is so hard that a playing partner suggested that everyone who actually landed a ball on the green – not necessarily in the hole – should win a truck. All of us readily agreed.

It’s almost needless to say that, at the end of the day, after about 115 golfers – ranging in talent from very good to very bad – had hit tee shots on the hole, no one had scored the big prize.

It was a dream unfulfilled. I had no pressing need for a pickup truck, but it would have looked good in the driveway.

Big prizes like the truck, other vehicles, cash pots and expensive vacations are par for the course in such tournaments. They add a bit of drama and a twinge of hope to the proceedings, even if the average golfer usually hits a less-than-average tee shot, perhaps a bit nervous about the possibilities of driving a new vehicle home to the spouse.

It would be interesting to hear how many of these prizes are actually won at these events and to hear the stories behind them. A lucky shot by a 25-handicapper? A ball that hit a tree left of the green and bounded into the cup? A knife-straight shot by a scratch golfer?

I have played in dozens of these tournaments over the years, and I’ve never seen The Big Prize won. I’m sure it happens from place to place and from time to time, but never in my place or time. I personally have never even scared the pin in these circumstances.

I played for several years in a corporate-sponsored tournament in which the big-prize hole awarded $1 million for a hole-in-one. One guy in my foursome came close one year, his shot hitting the pin on the ground and rolling away four feet. He had already planned a trip to the Bahamas and the purchase of matching Corvettes.

The sponsors of the tournament paid an insurance company about $11,000 to cover the $1 million cost in case somebody actually made the shot. Several years into the event, participants convinced the powers-that-be to award the $11,000 to the three golfers whose shots landed closest to the pin instead of writing a check to the insurance company. This seemed to please everyone. Those of us who rarely land in the shadow of the flagstick had no real stance on the issue.

And the red pickup truck? You can buy it at a local dealership.

Mike Hembree

Mike Hembree is a veteran journalist who has covered a variety of sports for numerous publications and websites, including USA Today, Fox Sports, TV Guide and The Greenville (S.C.) News. He has written 14 books and has won numerous writing awards at the national, regional and state levels. He is a seven-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.