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A Celestial Ball Mark


John Gurke, CGCS, at Aurora Country Club, Aurora Ill., may have found the ultimate unrepaired ball mark on his 14th green. Gurke was out on his course early one morning IPM scouting, and from a distance he could see a 4-5 inch yellow spot directly in the center of the green. At first he thought it was a pythium outbreak, or perhaps fox or coyote urine.

But right in the middle of the spot there was a small hole, so he got out his knife and dug into the sand-based green. In an area approximately 6 inches deep, the properties of the sand were obviously altered. About an inch and half into that, he found a small pea-sized object. It appeared to be 1/4-inch stone with a 1/8-inch shell over it. The outer crust was charred and appeared crystalline.

His first thought was that it could be a meteorite, so he went to his office and Googled "meteorite."

"The description was exactly the same as what I found," he said.

Gurke's wife, Julie, works at Aurora University and talked to professors there about the find. They referred her to the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, a residential high school in Aurora. "The odds of anybody finding something like this around here or anywhere is pretty remote," said Mark Horrell, Ph.D., who teaches astronomy and astrophysics at IMSA. After he examined the rock Horrell said, "It has all the hallmarks of a meteorite."

"If it had hit anywhere but a green, there's no way we'd have seen the impact," Gurke said. And if the green had been mowed before he made his scouting tour, the hole might have been closed up, and he'd have assumed it was a urine spot.

Meteorites are often named for the place where they are found so it could end up being named Aurora, or perhaps even Aurora Country Club.

This story originally appeared in Divot Mix, an online publication of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of American (www.gcsaa.org).    

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