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Queen of Aces | By Sonia Ramirez

SANFORD – With little fanfare, Diane Conti strides across the course at Carolina Trace Country Club, ready for her turn at the tee.

Conti is a legend here – she has made 15 holes in one, 14 of them on the two courses at Carolina Trace. Most golfers play the game without ever making a single ace.

And if that weren’t remarkable enough, this 63-year-old woman who has never taken a professional golf lesson in her life plays with a prosthetic right leg.

But on this sticky, late summer morning, no one spares a glance at Conti’s leg. The foursome is too busy watching the ball instead. Conti moves quickly, cracking jokes, throwing her arms wide, Tiger Woods-style, after a play.

She was born in Queens, N.Y., missing a bone in her right leg that left it shorter than the other and made her foot very small. Doctors waited until she was 10 to amputate below the knee. “I didn’t know any better,” she said. “It was just run of the mill; this is what we do.”

Many children would have struggled with a prosthetic leg but not Conti. “It was because of my parents that I handled the situation so well. They said, ‘You know, it’s nothing. You’ll get the prosthesis, and you’ll play ball. You’ll do anything you want to do.’”

Conti’s first prosthesis was a wooden leg made by Hanger Prosthetic. She now wears a lightweight plastic prosthetic which is normally covered by slacks when she’s on the golf course. It was her husband who first brought her there. They met in school. She didn’t know it then, but her best childhood friend was her future sister-in-law. After they married, Ron Conti’s work brought him to North Carolina. They bought a lot in Carolina Trace, a gated community between Spring Lake and Sanford.

But she never planned to play golf.

“It all just fell into place. It must have been a lucky star … or the luck of the Irish,” Conti said and laughed. “My husband is an avid golfer. He’s a good golfer, and he’s an excellent teacher. He taught me the game … taught me everything I know.”

Now that she has 15 holes in one to his four, he doesn’t mind. In fact, Conti says, he’s quite proud. “When my husband got his first hole in one he got a Mason jar, put the golf ball inside and said, ‘When I fill this jar, the good Lord can take me.’ Now he’s on his fourth hole in one and he’s scurrying around for a bigger jar.”

After all, anything is possible, Conti says. “You can accomplish anything, I think, especially with the right people behind you. I often wonder if my parents ever thought, ‘She better not go out. She better sit there.’ I mean, that could have happened, I suppose. But I think it’s the people around you and your own self-confidence. My parents shaped me into the person I am today.”

Today, the people around her marvel at Conti’s modesty.

“Diane just doesn’t get herself,” says Sara O’Leary, marketing director for Carolina Trace Country Club. “She’s so talented, but so modest and so down to earth …. She doesn’t get how good she is. She’ll say, ‘This is my 15th hole in one,” and I’ll say, 15? People aspire to get just one.”

Make that 15 and counting – Conti has no plans to slow down now.