HIKE 1: BALLYNEAL
I wished I could say I played some of my best golf. I wish I could say that I made 20 birdies and an eagle. I wish I could say I played some of my fastest rounds ever. But none one of those statements were true. But it still good enough. Like Dory, I just kept swimming. Just kept swimming. All my rounds were in the 80s. I made eight birdies overall. And the pace was in the 1:25-1:30 range with very small breaks in between rounds.
I like to say, "Like they always say, the fifth and sixth rounds of the day are always the toughest." That's usually when one hits the grind during the hike, when mentally you started to count down the number of holes left, focus on how much daylight is left and how much your feet hurt, and that's pretty much all you can think about. For whatever reason, I never hit the proverbial wall this year at Ballyneal. I was making great time, and 155 was well within reach, with time to spare.
When pledging my support to Brandon, I half-jokingly commented, "See you for Round 9". During last year's hike, I shamed/jedi-mind tricked Brandon to continue on an extra round during the twilight hours well after he had decided to quit after 126 holes. It worked last year, but I didn't really think he'd my round 9 suggestion seriously. That was until I finished my 8th round, got up to the clubhouse and saw Brandon marching down the 10th fairway on his 145th hole. Brandon started the day on the back nine and I hadn't seen him all day until that point, so I knew he was on a good pace. But when I saw him marching down the fairway, I realized that he was actually a half-hole ahead of my pace!
I quickly switched gears and decided to start round 9 on the back. Then I tried to catch up to Brandon, and it wasn't until the 13th hole when I could finally get close enough to get his attention. The guy was an animal (a point that will become even clearer later on in this blog). Brenna was on his bag at this point and we zipped around the back nine and then headed back to the front.
My M.O. has been to stop at 155 holes in deference to the original Ben Cox marathon. But finishing on the 2nd hole, didn't seem like a great idea. And more importantly, the course was just glowing on a perfect summer afternoon. I don't care if it's your 157th or your 7th hole of the day, if you're anything like me, there's no way that you'd see a view of a golf course like this and not keep playing. The golden hour was in full effect.
At one point, we broached the subject of possibility stretching it to 171 holes, matching the hike record held by our good friend Rob Rigg. But at the bottom of the 4th fairway (okay, rough), I started to feel a little woozy and light headed, to the point that I had to sit for 10 minutes or so at the 6th tee box. At that point, 162 holes seemed like a perfect good and reasonable number. 9 rounds in one day. Walking. Not a bad day's work. We realized that there was no way the two of us could flash the traditional post-hike digits, so my caddie Oscar (who went the last four rounds) got the much-deserved '1' in the picture below.
All in all, it was a fitting end a beautiful day at Ballyneal. We had a great crew of five hikers and even had a friendly multi-round skins game going to add interest and raise an additional $720 for our charitable causes (I won one, Brandon won one and Gary Albrecht won two). Together, the Ballyneal hike raised over $23,500 for charity. I am honored to call these guys fellow hikers and friends:
Ashley admitted that she likes to scream the architect's name whenever she gets an unfortunate break and hits into a hazard. "DOAK!!!" was a recurring theme throughout the day, proving again and again that it really is a four-letter word. Even Tom got into action by commenting, "who put that there?" after a particularly unfortunate bounce into a hazard. Then there was this beauty...
Round 1 (Black/clockwise): Matt & I paired up to beat Tom & Ashley 6&5
Round 2 (Red/counterclockwise): Ashley & I combined to shoot 77 and beat Tom & Matt 4&2 in the
Round 3 (Black): I paired up with Nia, an alum from the Midnight Golf Program (more on this in a second) to shoot 79, well ahead of the others
Round 4/5 (Red & then Black): Tom & I paired up to shoot 83 and 87, losing both matches to Matt & Ashley
Round 6: Matt & I shot 80, defeating Tom & Ashley 3&2
[If you're keeping track at home, Doak was 0-5 on the day on his own course, but he did lap the rest of us in fundraising so it's hard to give him too much flak]
At one point, we thought the 77 on Red with Ashley and 79 on Black with Nia were the course records in both directions, but it turned out somebody did shoot 75 on Red earlier. But the 79 with Nia was in fact the course record, although it's likely been broken by now. It was a fun while it lasted. It's worth noting that this is only the second time that I've held a course record. The other one is for once missing every fairway at Ballyneal. Sadly, going 0-for-14 is one that will truly never be broken.
- As I alluded to, in Round 3 we were joined by three alumni from the Midnight Golf Program, the charitable cause that we all were raising money for. I had Nia, Tom paired with Yvette and Matty G paired with Shelby. Ashley played her own ball. All three were obviously very good players, Yvette is current playing on the golf team at Ohio Valley University in West Virginia. It was a little difficult trying to get them out of their traditional pre-shot routines, and Jimbo had to have a heart-to-heart caddie-to-player talk with Yvette about the weight of her bag, but aside from that the highlight of the day getting to spend time with them on the course and learn more about the program and what it meant to them.
[The night prior to the hike, MGP founder Renee Fluker hosted a reception for the participants and some of the MGP members and volunteers. It was abundantly clear just in that short time just how much Renee and the other MGP volunteers are pouring into the kids to help get to college with the tools they need to be successful. As in, going way above and beyond the call of duty for these kids if necessary. My main takeaways were that MGP or similar programs need to be in Chicago (and every city in America) and short of that, we should all try to find some young person to mentor like the MGP volunteers are doing every year. This is truly life-changing work they are doing. I feel truly blessed to be able to help them in this very small way.]
Although the hike is over, there is still time to support my HHHike for the Midnight Golf Program. You can click on the "Pledge to This Golfer" button at the bottom of this page: http://www.hundredholehike.com/blogs/hhh-2016-double-dose-doak for either the Ballyneal or Forest Dunes hike. Please note my following final stats for each hike when pledging on a per hole or per birdie basis (no eagles, unfortunately):
Ballyneal Hike: 162 holes, 8 birdies
Forest Dunes Hike: 108 holes, 3 birdies
Alternatively, you can simply give directly to Midnight Golf online here: http://midnightgolf.org/support-mgp/
Thanks so much for your time and support of the hike. As always, if you're interested in actively participating in the hike next year, please email me at email@example.com. We have big ideas for next year and beyond and would like to keep expanding the number of golfers involved and charitable causes that are impacted.