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Dream Golf Weekend: A Bandon Adventure

11/02/2011 2 comments

Introduction:

A little over a month ago, I sat shirtless on a doctor’s examining room table wondering if the rest of my 2011 golf season was over, with perhaps 2012 on the brink as well. My body was crumbling faster than Tiger’s knees and personal life combined. Early in September, during a casual round with my buddy Wego at Prairie Landing, I felt something pop in my right shoulder as I pulled the club back on the par 3 12th. I took it easy for a few weeks, figured I’d be fine and eventually agreed to go to Ballyneal for a long weekend with my friend Matt and 10 others at the end of September. I thought even if I couldn’t rotate my shoulder anywhere close to parallel, I’d still be able to slap it around at Ballyneal on those firm and fast conditions. How bad could it be?

The answer: really bad. I struggled to break 100 in seven rounds over four days. Matt had organized a bunch of entertaining individual and team events each round, and my presence in a foursome was the kiss of death. I finished dead last in the running points game, and second to last in the money. I even set a dubious course record by hitting a grand total of 0-of-14 fairways (on fairways averaging 70 yards wide).

Right before that trip, two great things happened to me. First, I found out that the Walking Golfing Society had named me their 2011 Walking (Wounded) Golfer of the Year. Also, I got invited to a two-day, fourball event at Old Macdonald, the newest course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. After I found out that Rob Rigg, the founder of the Walking Golfer Society (and president of True Linkswear shoes) had also been invited to the event at Bandon (and was to be my partner), we made plans to do our award ceremony/trophy hand-off at Bandon as well. It promised to be a dream golf weekend. Except for my mangled shoulder and what I thought could be a torn rotator cuff.

So the day after I got back from Ballyneal, for once I listened to wife’s advice, sucked it up and went to the orthopedian to get my shoulder checked out (I bet I’ve been to the doctor no more than three times in the last 15 years). He pushed, pulled, yanked and dragged my arms in various positions, some of which felt perfectly fine, others of which made my eyes water. His diagnosis was some inflammation of the rotator cuff ligament, with the potential of a slight tear. I stressed that I was a serious golfer and had one last big trip planned for the year. He gave me a cortisone shot and hoped that would be all I needed.

Days after the shot, I felt like a new man. I could do full arm circles without pain, practiced that deeply-flawed but too-late-to-teach-a-middle-aged-dog-new-tricks golf swing in the mirror and dreamed of winning the Bandon team event in a blaze of glory. Then I took my kids to the driving range one late Sunday afternoon and woke up the next morning painfully back at Square One. I spent most of the month of October in golf limbo, dragging along a bum shoulder that didn’t exactly hurt but just felt off, like it was attached to somebody else’s body. Still, even if it meant swinging the club with one arm followed by an extended trip on the disabled list, there was no way I was missing out on a trip to Bandon Dunes.

The first and only time I had been to Bandon was back in 2006. A lot had changed for me in those five years. I went from two kids to three. Seemingly overnight, I leaped from young buck to prematurely gray. At work, I had clawed my way from senior grunt to junior middle management. I went from public golfer to a private one (and maybe back to public again). And I migrated from a two-handicap with a 50/50 love-hate relationship with the game to near double-digits but loving nearly every minute of it (other than the 0-for-14 fairway bit...that did kinda suck.)

It would be hard to top 2006's motley crew of Jimbo, my father-in-law Ken and my buddy “80-grand motha*****” Charles, but this trip had promise with Rob, my good friend and bunkmate Ben (Air Force Captain by day/turfgrass student and golf course design wannabe by night), and Matt Payne and Dave Hensley (GM and Superintendent of Ballyneal, respectively) among the friendly faces in the event. Ben picked me up at the North Bend airport, and after an 11-hour door-to-door journey, we were on our way to the greatest golf resort on the planet.


My 2011 Walking Golfer of the Year Victory Speech Dilemma

10/15/2011 1 comments
Check out this e-mail that just came across my shiny new iPhone 4S from Rob Rigg, founder of The Walking Golfer Society and co-founder of TRUE Linkswear (I tried to get Siri to read it to me, but apparently she doesn't do that yet):

SATURDAY 15 , OCTOBER 2011

2011 Walking Golfer of the Year and TWGS Event at Pasatiempo


Hello Society Members,
I am excited to announce Jim Colton as our 2011 Walking Golfer of the Year.
When I requested nominations for the award there was a resounding response that only one person was the logical choice and that was Jim. There was literally nobody else nominated and for good reason.
This summer Jim walked 155 holes in one day at Ballyneal Golf & Hunt Club in Colorado, and raised over $100k for Ben Cox and his family. Jim's incredible feat is an inspiration for us all and the money raised for injured caddie Ben and his family has been incredibly helpful in their time of need. Jim has been a passionate walking golfer for many years and his love for the game is infectious. Since writing "One Divot at a Time: Diary of a Full Fledged Golf Addict" , Jim has started to focus a little less on a score and a bit more on enjoying being on the course with friends and family. He wanted to turn his passion for walking Ballyneal into a way to help others and it has been an brilliant success. Jim will be taking the Ben Cox 155 to another level in 2012, stay tuned for details.
Congratulations Jim! It will be an honor to present you with The 2011 Walking Golfer of the Year award at Bandon Dunes at the end of October.
Keep enjoying the walk,
Rob
Founder - The Walking Golfers Society

Hey, I know that dude! What an honor it is to win the Walking Golfer of the Year award. What a perfect way to cap the golf season.

As the e-mail mentioned, Rob is planning to present the award to me at Bandon Dunes at the end of this month. I'm not sure what the format of the presentation will be like. As my lifetime record in Ballynizzle Cups probably indicates, victory speeches are not something that I have a whole lot of experience with.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned this year is this: anything that one could possibly want to learn about can be learned from YouTube. Back in March, I bought an electric guitar and just seven months later, I can butcher a Top 40 song or 90's rock tune with the best of them. So after giving one victory speech a shot, I then turned to YouTube to help come up with a second version. And I figured what better place to start than to watch victory and acceptance speeches from some of the best athletes of my generation. I've had such a stellar track record of following athletes who are not only superstars but great people (Michael Jordan, Barry Bonds, Tiger Woods), I knew this plan would be full-proof. I spent hours pouring over videos from them and others such as Rickey Henderson, Alex Rodriguez and Mark McGwire.

The problem is I'm now stuck with two versions. Which should I use in Bandon in two weeks? Check them out below and let me know what you think.



Ballyneal: Somewhere Only We Know

9/30/2011 0 comments
My buddy Matt put together this slideshow highlight some of the great times at Ballyneal over the past couple years. Nice work, Matty!

The Wegoblogger Man Cave

9/16/2011 1 comments
Here are some pics from the newly renovated Wegoblogger World Headquarters, a.k.a. Ballymancave. Enjoy!

I think I have another piece of hardware coming in October, so I need to find room for it. More on that when the time comes...

The Eighth at Ballyneal by Joshua C.F. Smith on the left; a wind-tattered old Ballyneal flag on the right

Flags left to right: Olympia Fields, PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, The Players Championship, Masters, Riviera Country Club, World Woods and Friars Head

Ballyneal photos on canvas by canvasondemand.com ($45 via group on)

Flags left to right: Bethpage Black U.S. Open, Black Sheep, Pebble Beach, National Golf Links, Ballyneal, Shinnecock Hills, Kingsley Club, Sand Hills, Harbour Town

Guide to Chicago Public Golf Courses - 2011 Update

9/06/2011 0 comments


We've updated the Definitive Guide to Chicago's Best Public Courses by soliciting the input of an expert panel of fellow Windy City golf-crazed lunatics. Bowes Creek, The Highlands of Elgin and Ravisloe Country Club are new entrants to the list, which was last published in 2007 but continues to be the most requested web page on my site. Cog Hill #4 (pictured above) still holds the top spot. Click on the link below to view the updated rankings.

http://www.wegoblogger31.com/2007/05/chicago-golf-definitive-guide-to.html

Natty Twice!

8/19/2011 2 comments
 I never thought I'd see the day...I get to play National Golf Links of  America twice in one summer.

Okay, the lyrics need work. But that doesn't change the fact that I got another chance to play the National this past week, a.k.a. the greatest golf course that I've ever played. After a second go 'round, I can't help but think of the words of the great KRS-One: "I'm still #1!" Those lyrics work just fine.

Looking back now...it's crazy to think that I'm almost passed on the opportunity to play CB Macdonald's masterpiece again. For most of the latter half of July and beginning of August, I sat in my home office wallowing in self-pity and was stuck in a existential (my favorite word in the English language, although I'm still not exactly sure what it means), post-marathon and post-Ballynizzle Cup defeat funk. I was done for the year, by far the earliest in the season that I had hung 'em up. When my good buddy Matt mentioned that there might be an opportunity to fill out the foursome at NGLA, I initially passed.

But in the words of John Popper (with creative license), "The Alps brings you baaaack!"

A few weeks back, my friend and golf writer Tom innocently asked me a question about the playing characteristics of the famed 3rd Hole at National for a piece that he was working on. I was slightly perplexed and deeply perturbed that I couldn't give him a good answer, largely because the first time I played the hole back in June, I hit my drive about 50 yards left of left, and had to play the hole up the hill from near the 4th green.

That darn 3rd hole stuck in my craw for days. As did many of the other wonderful template holes - Redan, Road, Bottle, Punchbowl, etc. I thought to myself, "How many times are you going to play this course in your lifetime? Strap on a sack and get back out there, you idiot!" I went crawling back to Matt and a couple e-mails later, I was confirmed in. Natty twice!

Check out the pictures below.  What a perfect way to cap off what has been the best golfing year of my life. Unless, of course, there's a Natty Thrice sometime in September or October (anybody?)

Here's the bell behind the Alps green. Matt should've been the one to gong it, as he birdied the hole. Wow, what a hole to birdie. I did successfully hit it in the right side of the fairway, but hit a low skunky approach shot out to the left (a common theme on this day) and made bogey.


The greatest Redan hole in the world. What did I say my lifetime record is on redans last time? 0-for-102? Well, it's 0-for-103 now.


From Bad to Far Worse

7/14/2011 3 comments
Let me just start off by saying this: losing the Ballynizzle Cup sucks. I probably wanted to win it back a little too much, to the detriment of my golf game and my team's chances. That said, there is absolutely no way I'd want to trade places with Jefe right now. In fact, I'm not sure anybody would.

The day after the Nizzle started innocently enough. The plan was to play two rounds of golf in the Denver area before taking a late-night flight home. Everything was going along swimmingly until the second round ended four holes early due to thunderstorms. A minor setback in an otherwise great golf trip.

Suddenly, we were faced with almost six hours to kill before our scheduled 9:44 PM flight. Luckily, we spotted our ol' friend Chili's (a golf-trip staple) on the way back to the Interstate and figured a bowl or three of bottomless chips and salsa would be a good way to kill time. Even if none of us were all that hungry. That morning, we met the "Milkshake Lady" at Castle Pines and had to try one of her world-famous milkshakes . It was one of those rare cases in today's world where something actually lives up to the hype. In fact, I ended up having two milkshakes (one chocolate after the round and one strawberry for the road). I felt like a lead balloon during the second round and really paid the price later that night (two milkshakes and Chili's...not a winning combination), but I will go on record that the second milkshake was worth it. It was that good.

We pulled up to the airport around 6:30 PM, over three hours ahead of time. At least that's what we thought. As we reached the kiosk to check our clubs, I received the first of seven text messages telling us that the departure time had been pushed back. From 9:44 to 10:15. then 10:30. 10:47. 11:15. 11:30. 11:50. Then ultimately 12:10 AM. Our flight didn't leave until 12:30 in the morning. We didn't land at O'Hare until 3:45 AM, sort of an unplanned red-eye flight.

I consider myself to be an extremely patient air traveler. Years of flying in and out of LaGuardia for work have conditioned me to hope for the best and expect the worst. But six hours at Denver International late at night has to be something similar to the survival training that our buddy Ben told us about from his days at the Air Force Academy. In the war for airport supremacy, the man with the most power outlets and gummy worms wins. I managed the battery-life remaining percentage on my iPhone like it was a ticking timebomb. If it had gone down to zero, I would've certainly gone insane. Poor Jimbo was losing that battle - he spent his time trying to be the first person to discover how to comfortably sit in those blue vinyl and metal airport chairs. He gave that up and switched to the rock-hard floor. I knew his brain was turning to mush when he said, "If I ever build my own airport, the floors will be made entirely out of mattresses." It was getting ugly.



Everything you need to know about Ballynizzle 2011

7/11/2011 0 comments
The next two years will be one, long continuous Climb.


Congrats to Team Jefenator and especially captain Jefe, who was so focused on keeping it under 1,000 total strokes on this golf trip, he left the Ballynizzle Cup at the club.

"Colorado Man" in Golf World

7/08/2011 1 comments
Check out the latest edition of Golf World. My ugly mug in print! More on this later, but I do enjoy how they are foreshadowing my eventual move to Colorado. And thanks again to Brian Carruthers for the unintentional sand-bag. 7-capper.

Golf World is personally significant for me as it reminds me of my late grandparents, who are the reason that I play this great game. They had gotten a free subscription to Golf World from a Florida car dealership back when they bought a Buick probably in 1988. They kept getting the magazine long after that car was long gone, past when my grandpa died in 1996 and right up until my Nana died 18 months ago. When I would visit my Nana after college, I would pour through old GolfWorld's about 8-10 at a time.

I spoke during my Nana's funeral service and talked about these visits, where I would come down with my friends and play nearby World Woods for 3-4 days straight. These trips were really the genesis for every far-flung golf buddy trip since. My Nana lovingly whipped up a meal that undoubtedly included a huge bowl of mashed potatoes and her awesome homemade apple sauce. We'd golf all day, eat at 8 and we konked out by 9:30. What great guests! The price for all of this hospitality was occasionally getting on the roof to clean out the gutters, where one false move might leave you impaled by a lightning rod.

I also spoke about how trying to make my grandparents proud of me was a motivating factor growing up. It kept me on the straight and narrow in school and kept my grades up in college. The mantra "Make Nana Proud" has kept me striving to be a generally decent guy ever since, even now after they are gone (maybe even more so). I can't help but think they'd be proud seeing this "Colorado man" in their free subscription of Golf World this week, once the "our grandson is crazy...but I guess we already knew that" eventually wore off.


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What's the Story, Rory? Glory! Ben Cox 108/155 hits 100k!

7/05/2011 0 comments


One quick post to announce that the Ben Cox golf marathon has reached the $100,000 mark in pledges today. What can I say...simply unbelievable. When I hatched this crazy idea to walk 108 holes in a day, my hopes were to literally raise $2,500 for the Cox family by e-mailing a group of my golf buddies. Three months later, here we are at FORTY times that amount and still going (still time to get in the golf raffle if you hurry.)

Of course, none of this would've been possible if it weren't for the support of hundreds of friends and fellow golf addicts who read about Ben, were inspired by his story and wanted to help him and his family. It was truly a grassroots effort that climbed to $100,000 by $50 or $100 at a time. Many donated money. Others donated raffle items. Others helped spread the word by e-mailing their friends or by harassing PGA Tour pros on Twitter...

...my buddy Tim Bert deserves a special shout-out for cyberstalking Rory McIlroy on Twitter the last couple of weeks, trying desperately to get a "RT" of one of the many links and stories that has come out about this event. I believe Tim has made it his life's mission to get a nod from the reigning U.S. Open champ by any means necessary. I joked that by time Rory actually does respond, Tim won't be able to get within 500 feet to personally thank him.

So if you're on Twitter, hit the tweet button at the end up this post and send @McIlroyRory a note asking for a RT on the #bencox155 raffle. Feel free to use this post's URL or any of the links below. Tell him @FiveClubWind sent you. Whomever gets Rory to finally respond gets a Ballyneal golf shirt (Tim will get one also).



[p.s. special thanks for Brian Carruthers for telling Golf World that I'm a 7 handicap. Now that the story has made the most recent print version of the magazine, tens of thousands of people think that I'm a 7 capper. At first I was upset about this, but now I've come to realize that this unintentional sand-bagging should improve my chances of winning the Ballynizzle Cup back from Jefe this weekend. Either way, Brian is not going to hear the end of it.]

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Marathon Man - Golf World Monday & Golf Channel's W18

6/27/2011 0 comments
If you're a Golf World subscriber, check out the most recent version of Golf World Monday, the publication's weekly digital version. #10 features a familiar face. If I had known my composite scorecard was going to be shared with the world, I might have tried a little harder on those four-footers. I also hit this drive on #12 way right into the native.

Special thanks to Brian Carruthers at Ballyneal for telling them that I'm a 7-handicapper. Cmon man!



Jason Sobel from the Golf Channel also took notice of the marathon and the raffle in his W18 column (see #10 under "Three Wishes"):


"10. I wish every golf fan would get behind this great cause.
It began innocently enough, the entire goal being one guy wanting to play as much golf as possible.
Jim Colton is a member at Ballyneal Golf & Hunt Club in Holyoke, Colo. – and one who thinks nothing of playing 54 holes in a single day. Last year, a few caddies from the private club decided to play 100 “just to get under my skin,” he recalls with a laugh.
Not wanting to be outdone, Colton set out to break the course record once again, aiming to play 108 holes – six full rounds – in one day.
There was no other cause nor motive behind the round other than personal enjoyment – until Colton heard about Ben Cox’s story.
A former five-star caddie at Ballyneal who started working there when the club opened in 2006, the 22-year-old Texas Tech student was skiing with his father earlier this year when he attempted a steep jump and fell, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.
The story hit the tightly knit Ballyneal community hard – and all of a sudden, Colton’s marathon day of golf had a charitable cause behind it. And so one man’s desire to play a lot of golf turned into “The Ben Cox 108,” used to raise money for Fox and his family.
“I thought I’d email some golf buddies,” Colton says. “I figured if we raised $2,500, that would be great for his family.”
He surpassed that goal by just a little bit.
After the original Monday date was postponed due to a hailstorm, Colton teed it up this past Wednesday, raising more than $75,000 to date for his new friend mostly through word of mouth within golf circles.
“I hadn’t actually met Ben prior to the accident, didn’t have any relationship with him,” Colton explains. “But we’ve struck up a friendship through this whole process. I’m a changed person having gotten to know him and his family.”
That includes a touching moment on Father’s Day, when – with the help of a specialized cart – Cox was able to play two holes at Ballyneal in front of friends both old and new.
“Just seeing those two guys together,” Colton reports, “... there really wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
When he teed it up for “The 108,” Colton not only surpassed his monetary goals, but his golf goals, as well. Starting at 4:47 a.m. and using both a caddie and forecaddie, he completed his first 18 holes in one hour, 27 minutes and had played 108 by 3:30 p.m. Rather than stopping, he just kept going, playing a total of 155 holes that included a 75 and “a bunch of scores in the low-to-mid-80s,” he says.
Colton hopes the money raised will someday help Fox walk again. And he remains humbled by how one man playing a lot of golf can potentially better another man’s life.
“This has been literally the best thing that’s ever happened to me as far as my not-so-illustrious time as an amateur golfer,” he says. “To use my love for the game to make someone’s life better? That’s the ultimate achievement in my life.”
The money is still pouring in, too. Through his connections in the golf world, Colton has arranged for rounds at such places as Pebble Beach, Merion, Olympic Club, Harbour Town, Whistling Straits, Riviera and nearly five dozen other top courses to be raffled off at Ballyneal on July 9.
Those interested in purchasing tickets for the raffle or pledging donations can do so at Colton’s personal website: www.wegoblogger31.com"

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Ben Cox Slideshow - The Fan 104.3 Radio Interview

6/25/2011 1 comments

The Ben Cox 108 (Give or Take 47)

6/24/2011 1 comments


Here are some pics from Wednesday's golf marathon. It was a fun and memorable day. I didn't really know what to expect, but I knew we'd get to at least 108 and keep playing until we could no longer see the ball. The ultimate goal was to raise as much money for the Cox family as possible.

The pic above shows the first tee shot, at 4:47 A.M. Somebody asked me if there was going to be a Volume 2 of One Divot at a Time. I'm not sure, but this photo above would make the cover! It's like an updated version of my ubiquitous 2005 shot at Bandon Dunes. 

Never before had the thought "Gee, I hope I break 100" had so much meaning. There was just enough light to tell where the ball was headed. Head pro Matt Payne, assistant Brian Carruthers and official Ballyneal mascot Garrett Gordon were "on the bag" at the beginning, with one guy carrying the bag and two others operating as forecaddies for the first nine holes.

Still Time to Get in on Ben Cox Raffle

6/23/2011 0 comments


Even now that the Ben Cox 108+ hole marathon is over, you can still donate now and get into the July 9th raffle. You just need to get your money in by the July 8th deadline in order to be eligible to win one of the 82 incredible golf prizes.

If you've been following the raffle closely, you know that it jumpstarted with a series of big-name courses such as Merion, The Olympic Club and Riviera. In the past week, even more of most well-known and desirable courses have been added to the pool, such as Pebble Beach, Whistling Straits and Harbour Town, and the list has exploded from there.  Check out the by-the-number breakdowns below. If you're a serious golfer, you simply have to a) throw in $50 or $100 for a chance to win and b) e-mail all of your golfing friends to tell them about it.

The raffle will take place at Ballyneal the evening of July 9th. It will work similar to the NBA draft lottery, with the order of the picks being drawn. I will notify the winners on July 9th of which pick they received, then will work with the winners over the following week or so to determine which of the remaining items they'd like to select when it's their turn to pick.

- 9 Future Major Sites, including 6 of the 8 future U.S. Open sites
- 2 Future Walker Cup Sites
- 2 Future Ryder Cup Sites
- 3 Future U.S. Amateur Sites
- 25 on Golfweek's Best Classic Courses (2011)

The list has gotten too big to list out all the prizes. Here's just a sample.


- Twosome of golf at Pebble Beach (site of the 2019 U.S. Open), Spyglass Hill and two nights at the Inn at Spanish Bay
- Foursome of golf at Ballyneal
- Twosome of golf at Winged Foot, choice of West or East course
- Foursome of golf at any one of the 4 courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
- Twosome of golf at Whistling Straits (site of the 2015 PGA Championship and 2020 Ryder Cup) and one night at the American Club
- Ireland golf package including twosomes of golf at Ballybunion (Old) and Tralee
- Threesome of golf at Pinehurst No. 2, site of the 2014 U.S. Open
- Foursome of golf at Chambers Bay, site of the 2015 U.S. Open
- Twosome of golf at Erin Hills, site of the 2017 U.S. Open
- Foursome of golf at Royal Dornoch
- Two-day stay and play package for four golfers at The Prairie Club
- Foursome of golf at Forest Dunes in Roscommon, MI
- Golf and accommodations for three nights for four golfers at Hacienda Pinilla in Gunacaste, Costa Rica
- A Hilton Head golf package including threesomes of golf with a member-host at Harbour Town, Seccession and two nights stay at the Harbour Town Yacht Club
- Twosome of golf at Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand
- Two nights accommodation at the Fairmont St Andrews and one twosome of golf at The Torrance or The Kittocks. Includes potential round on The Old Course with George Peper, editor in chief of Links Magazine and author of "True Links" and "Two Years in St. Andrews"
- French Lick Resort golf package including two nights accommodation at the West Baden Springs Hotel and golf for two at the Pete Dye Course
- One twosome of golf at Cabot Links in Inverness, Nova Scotia
- Two pairs of TRUE Linkswear golf shoes
- One custom, hand-crafted MacKenzie Walker golf bag

For a full, detailed list, feel free to e-mail me at jcolton31@gmail.com



A Father's Love

6/20/2011 3 comments

I don't even know where to start. It's 5:09 AM on Monday June 20th and I'm supposed to be somewhere around the 7th or 8th hole of my 108+ hole journey right now. Instead I'm laying in bed wide awake trying to process everything that's happened over the last 24 hours. A short recap:

- I teed it up with my beautiful wife Sue for our first time together at Ballyneal
- 10 days after playing one of my worst rounds ever, I did a complete 180 and played well enough to go toe-to-toe straight up against the reigning club champion.
- I spent the afternoon with Ben Cox and his wonderful family. I got to play with Ben for his first two holes after his skiing accident, then the rest of the front nine with his father, Ken.
- I got to spent quality time with friends and other guests huddled up in the basement of the Ballyneal restaurant praying that a tornado didn't rip the roof off.
- I got to deal with the disappointment of hearing the words "there's no way you can do your marathon tomorrow" due to the huge hail storm that tore through the course.

Any of one of these topics could probably be a chapter in Volume 2 of One Divot at a Time (hypothetically speaking), but the one that plays out over and over in my mind is obviously the two holes with Ben and his Dad. In an ironic twist of fate, what on the surface would be a nightmare scenario for me and most golfers - getting paired up with a father and son on a Sunday afternoon on a 45 minute per hole pace, turned out to be the highlight of my golfing life.

After getting to know Ben over the last couple months, I knew he would do great. Ben is nothing if not determined, and with his engineering brain always working, I knew he'd figure out how to make the golf swing on the adaptive cart work. I knew with his patience and positive attitude, he wouldn't get frustrated over the misses and the do-overs. And I knew he would continue to be an inspiration to everyone he met the same way he's been an inspiration to me.

What really stuck out with me and what I want to focus on is Ken and the special father-son relationship between Ken and Ben. As a father of three, it was an extremely humbling experience. On Father's Day especially.

I hadn't had the chance to meet Ken prior to yesterday. We had spoken on the phone and traded a few text messages, but had yet to meet in person. Of course, the reason I hadn't met him was because he's been working full time at his day job then spending most of the night trying to renovate their house to prepare for Ben's return. That was Exhibit A.

Exhibit B was the Denver Post article from last week. Talking to numerous friends and colleagues about Benjamin Hochman's piece, many pointed out one of two things: a) the family's tremendous faith in God that He is working this accident into something bigger and better and b) the pain that the father must be going through being on the slopes with Ben as he made that life-altering jump.

That was really all I knew about Ken prior to yesterday at 1:30 PM. By 4:30 PM, he was enshrined into my personal Dad Hall of Fame.

Seeing Ben and his dad together on the golf course was a deeply moving experience. It was quickly apparent that they were truly best friends and best golf buddies. They showed up at Ballyneal with matching light-blue collared shirts and plaid, baggy Phat Farm shorts (Ken probably setting a world record for oldest man to wear the hip-hop label). On the first tee, they ribbed each other just like it was any one of hundred of rounds shared together out at F&H Golf Course in Haxtun.



When Ben's first drive found the edge of the native, Ken was reluctant to give his competitor relief (I stepped in and foot-wedged it.) When Ben's third shot on the 2nd caught the hole's patented turbo slot and ended up a yard past Ken's drive, they approached the balls not knowing whose was whose. After Ben found out he had "outdriven" his Dad, he muttered "I got ya" just like countless other golfers had said in that exact same situation before. It was just like any other round of golf between friends - rooting for the other guy but also secretly wanting to beat his brains in. Ben was Ken's Jefe. The only difference was the set-up time between shots.


It was the 3-4 minutes between shots where Ken really shined. It was truly the perfect example of a Father's love for his son. I kept thinking about the famous bible verse from 1 Corinthians (13:4): "Love is patient, Love is kind...". You usually hear that at weddings but it was even more appropriate here. When Ben couldn't quite negotiate both the steering and the accelerator lever, Ken stepped in and controlled the gas while walking alongside. For every shot, Ken helped Ben negotiate his solo rider cart into the proper position, perpendicular to target, then lifted Ben's legs as they flipped the seat around so Ben was hanging off the back of the cart. Next, Ken would place the club in Ben's makeshift golf glove, then tie down a series of Velcro and elastic straps so the club would stay in Ben's right hand. Finally, Ken would tee up the ball for his son in the spot most likely to intersect with the swing path.



On one hand, you'd think that this kind of a Father's love would be expected. I'm blessed to have an all-world Dad (thanks Big Dog!), and I know he'd do the same for me in this situation. I'd like to think I'd do the same for one of my kids if needed. But then you realize that this isn't always the case. One of the onlookers commented, "I need to text my Dad right now and tell him this is just like him and me, only the exact opposite."



Ben's initial batting average on making contact was probably below the Mendoza line, but Ken patiently worked with his son to try to get it right. They tried different Velcro combinations, different clubs, different leg positions, different left-hand positions (with virtually no balance, Ben has to use his left hand for stability). It was very much like a father teaching his 8-year old son the game for the very first time - trying not to overcomplicate things while still trying to find some simple combination of positioning and swing thoughts that could produce somewhat consistent results.

Many, many Dads could learn a lot by watching Ken reteach his son the game. I couldn't help but think about the last time I took my 9-year old son out for nine holes one night after dinner. On one occasion, I got frustrated with him after he 10-putted a green, constantly criss-crossing the hole and failing to heed my suggestions. At that moment, I was the anti-Ken.

Sitting in my bed at what is now 7:05 AM, I hope that I'm a changed man. A changed Dad. I pray at least a fraction of Ken's love and patience rubbed off on me by osmosis. All along, folks have been praising me for my role in setting up this Father's Day moment for Ben and his Dad. But what I'm finding to be consistently true of the Cox family in general, they continue to find ways to turn the gift around tenfold.



Jim Colton chats about his walk for Ben Cox at Ballyneal

6/18/2011 0 comments



Check out my radio interview from this morning on The Golf Show on The Fan 104.3 in Denver

Jim Colton chats about his walk for Ben Cox at Ballyneal

Going to the Driving Range with a 3-Year Old

6/12/2011 0 comments
Here's some video from a driving range session with Luke, my 3-year old son. He's really taken heed to the simple swing thoughts I've tried to instill in him.



After a great afternoon with him and my eldest son Jordan, I've decided that the Sunday late-afternoon driving-range session is going to be a constant on the family calendar this summer.


From Sunday's Denver Post: Ballyneal golf club brings two together after accident

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To say The Ben Cox 108 has exceeded everybody's expectation would be a huge understatement. Literally when I came up with the idea, I figured that I'd email 30-40 of my closest buddies and probably 25 of them would donate $100 each. Now we're over $37,000 and counting and the event has made it to the Denver Post. What an amazing thing. Please check out the story to find out more about Ben and his family. It will be readily apparent why I'm motivated to make this event everything that it can be.

Epic Fail: My Shinnecock Hills Debacle

6/10/2011 1 comments



Phil Mickelson versus Jim Colton. Feel free to play along as we compare and contrast two of golf's most beloved lefties.

- They both hit from the right side of the ball. SAME.

- One is naturally left-handed; the other is just really, really good at faking it. DIFFERENT.

- Both have highly unoriginal nicknames (Coltrain and Lefty). SAME.

- Both are dedicated family men with beautiful wives and floppy-haired kids who run across the 18th green to give daddy hugs after a big tournament win. SAME, except for the floppy-hair part. And the last time I won anything golf-related was in 1997, two years before I got married and five years before my eldest son was born. But hypothetically they'd do it, so...SAME.

- Both are listed between 6'2"-6'3" and 185-190 pounds. SAME. One guy's measurements are current; the other guy's were last taken when he won the 1991 Tucson Open as an amateur. DIFFERENT.

- One guy displays utter shock and dismay when a putt burns the edge; the other is genuinely shocked whenever one goes in. Shock: SAME. Situation: DIFFERENT.

- One guy has Premier status on United; the other has Owner status on a G5. DIFFERENT.

And one more after this week:

- Both guys choked away a prime opportunity at Shinnecock Hills in June. SAME. One guy did it in the 2004 U.S. Open in front of 40,000 fans and millions of viewers. The other did it in front of three playing partners, two caddies and 145 Facebook friends. DIFFERENT, but equally crushing.

Day three of my epic Long Island golf trip was what the cool kids call an epic fail. After playing the sporty National Golf Links of America the previous day, Shinnecock Hills was going to be the test. A test that I failed miserably. I picked the absolutely wrong time to play what was my worst round of golf in five years, although sadly there's been a lot more competition for that dishonor recently.

Riding back on the plane from LaGuardia as I type this, the in-flight entertainment is showing the series Friday Night Lights. I can't help but think of the original FNL movie, starring that Dawson VanDerCreek guy with the Jimbo-sized head. All I remember about that movie is something about a whipped-cream bikini (my high-school experience as captain of the golf team versus Dawson's experience as QB1 in West Texas: DIFFERENT) and the infamous teaser-trailer tag line: "I DON'T WANT YOUR LIFE!!!" But that doesn't quite fit here. I mean, playing bad golf at Shinnecock Hills is still playing Shinnecock Hills, right? I doubt anybody is really feeling sorry for me. And I'm certainly not feeling sorry for myself. Shinnecock Hills was awesome.

Instead, I think a more fitting late 90's bad-movie quote would be from the movie "Cop Land" starring Sylvester Stallone as a partly-deaf police officer of a town that was (SPOILER ALERT!) inhabited by a bunch of corrupt New York City cops. I don't remember much about the movie, other than it had an equally memorable tagline from Robert DeNiro. Or maybe I only remember it because my younger brother Jason and I got a good 5+ years of mileage out of it with some really amateurish New Jersey accents.

"I OFFERED YOU A CHANCE, AND YOU BLEW IT!!!"


That basically sums it up for me. Shinnecock Hills was a once in a lifetime experience, and I spent most of the day in the heather contracting Lyme Disease three times over. I was so jacked to play this course and terrifyingly nervous of those famous dual-shaded slivers of fairway that my heart was pounding out of my chest ON THE DRIVING RANGE. I can't think of a worse time or place to lose one's golf swing.

Here I am 10 days away from trying to play 6+ rounds in one day (in order to play fast, I absolutely have to play well) and less than a month from trying to win back the Ballynizzle Cup from Jefe (who has beaten me by an average of 11 strokes in our two rounds together this year). What do I do now? Do I get lessons or will things get worse? Do I continue to beat balls and hope I find something? Or do I just chill out and hope it comes back to me by osmosis? I'm completely lost here.

The most unfortunate thing about my Shinnecock Hills disaster is that I wasn't able to fully appreciate the course and the architecture. But from what I could tell while red fescue grass was riding up my shorts, Shinny is a tremendous golf course. The routing is genius, with a series of triangles that force the golfer to constantly play in different wind directions. Its back nine is probably the best that I've ever played. And it has three of the most devilish par 3 greens you'll find anywhere. I'd love everything about the place and my day there other than the number of X's on my scorecard.

Check out the photos and comments below:


The National

6/09/2011 5 comments



[Cue Autotune:] Never thought I'd see the day...I'd be teeing it up at NGLA!

But that's exactly what I did this week. I just got back from what was easily the best three-day golf trip of my life, and arguably the best three-day golf trip you could possibly muster. The highlight was a day at CB MacDonald's National Golf Links of America, a.k.a. The National (now that I've played it, I can officially call it that); a.k.a. the number one golf course on my rapidly shrinking bucket list (should I be upping my life insurance?)

The National may be under the radar for many golfers, especially compared to its next door neighbor Shinnecock Hills. Heck, I admit to not knowing that much about it as recently as two years ago. In my 2009 write-up of Sand Hills, I wrote: "I want to play four golf courses before I die: Pine Valley. Cypress Point. Augusta National. Sand Hills. That's the bucket list. Sure, you could throw Shinnecock Hills, Merion, NGLA, Oakmont and Royal County Down on there, but that's just being greedy. The four are the big four. The rest are a half-notch below." But I think it's safe to say my tastes have evolved. Partly it's due to being blessed to see these world-class courses. Partly it's due to getting more and more rounds out at Ballyneal under my belt. And part of it is due to building out my golf-course architecture library and studying the art in more detail.  Last summer, I bought George Bahto's book, "The Evangelist of Golf: The Story of Charles Blair MacDonald", which is probably my favorite book in my library (coincidentally, it's now out-of-print and going for $725 on Amazon. I will be auctioning off my copy on eBay and donating the proceeds to the Ben Cox marathon...see right sidebar for more details.)

Bahto's book goes into the life and work of C.B. Mac in great detail (did you know he was the first U.S. Amateur and was instrumental in the creation of the USGA? Did you know that part of the reason the USGA was formed was because C.B. successfully downplayed the validity of two previous national championships, primarily because he didn't win them?) Most of the book focuses on the history and hole-by-hole walkthrough of the National. MacDonald studied the great golf holes of the world and wanted to create an ideal golf courses that comprised these great holes as templates. He search for a suitable site for this dream course and found it in Southampton, just west of Shinnecock. The rest is history.

The ironic thing about the National is that for a course that it made up primarily by copycats of other famous golf holes, it's unlike any other golf course in the world (well, until Old MacDonald opened last summer). It reminded me of The Old Course in that it gives you the freedom and challenge of deciding among one of many different options to get to the hole. The simpleton in me describes NGLA as "The Old Course with topography". Like the Old Course, MacDonald gives you Point A and Point B and leaves it up to you to determine how to go about getting there in as few strokes as possible. I find this freedom, variety and strategic interest to be the most compelling aspects of golf-course design.

Check out the photo tour and comments below, although the photos and my words barely do the place justice. The National is truly a special, special place. CB Mac truly did build the ideal golf course.


Ballyneal Member (ME) Invites Others (YOU) to Join 108-Hole Fundraiser

5/25/2011 0 comments













Below is a copy of a press release that our friends at Ballyneal sent out about The Ben Cox 108:

HOLYOKE, CO -- On June 20th, Ballyneal Golf Club member Jim Colton will set out on a mission to walk 108 holes of golf in one day to raise money for the healthcare of Ben Cox, a Ballyneal caddie who was paralyzed from the chest down following a downhill skiing accident in March.

In addition to collecting lump-sum and per-hole pledges, Colton is offering the opportunity for others to take an active role in the event. Colton has pledged to pay the Ballyneal guest fees for up to 16 non-members who raise at least $500 for the cause and commit to the "half-marathon" of 54 holes or more on the 20th.

Cox, a 2006 graduate of Haxtun High School, grew up about 25 miles from Ballyneal in northeast Colorado. He attended Wayland Baptist University in Texas before transferring to Texas Tech, where he was studying civil engineering at the time of the accident. Cox hopes to return to school in January 2012 to complete the last two semesters needed for his degree. He is expected to be discharged from Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colo., on June 14th and hopes to be at Ballyneal six days later to greet Colton and the other golfers as they finish their rounds.

Ben's mother, Melinda Cox, doesn't know the total amount of the medical bills resulting from Ben's care, but related that just one surgical bill was $330,000. Cox is expected to have additional medical needs moving forward.

"I get real emotional talking about the support shown by Jim Colton, Haxtun residents, Wayland Baptist, Ballyneal and others," said Melinda Cox, a teacher's aide in Haxtun who has remained with her son in Denver since the accident. "I thank God each day. It's amazing how people have rallied around us."

"I've definitely had more good days than bad," Ben said. "You've got to keep a good attitude about it. It is what it is. You can either look at it that you can't do this or that, or you can figure out what you can still do."

Colton resides in Wheaton, Ill., and is known for being a golf fanatic through his blog http://www.wegoblogger31.com/, and his 2009 book entitled, "One Divot at a Time: Diary of a Full-Fledged Golf Addict." He has received pledges of more than $20,000 and hopes the chance to play Ballyneal will raise even more money. "The Coxes are a great family with a positive attitude and tremendous faith in the face of this life-changing injury," said Colton. "As soon as I heard about the accident, I knew I had to do whatever I could to help."

Thanks to June 20 being one of the longest days of the year, Colton plans to tee off for his first round at 4:45 a.m. and golf until dusk at 8:45 p.m.

"Although the event is called 'The Ben Cox 108,' I view 108 holes as the starting point instead of the finish line," Colton said, relating that numerous contributors have creatively structured their pledges with bonuses for playing more than 108 holes. "Knowing that each extra hole will be worth hundreds of additional dollars to the cause will motivate me to keep going."

As an additional incentive to donate to the cause, Colton is collecting prizes that will be awarded by raffle. Contributors will get a raffle ticket for every $50 donated, with the raffle set to take place on Saturday July 9th. The list of raffle items includes rounds of golf at some of the best and most historic golf courses in the world. [To see an updated list of raffle prizes, go here: http://www.wegoblogger31.com/2011/06/still-time-to-get-in-on-ben-cox-raffle.html]

To learn more, call Ballyneal at 970/854-5900 or e-mail head pro Matt Payne at mattp@ballyneal.com.

Ballyneal is a private golf club located in the sand hills of northeastern Colorado, 2.5 hours from Denver. The Ballyneal land is referred to by locals as the "chop hills," due to the unique characteristics of its dunes. Ballyneal was Travel + Leisure Golf's Best New Course of 2006 and currently is ranked No. 6 Best Modern by Golfweek, No. 48 in the U.S. by Golf Magazine, and one of Golf Digest's America's 100 Greatest Courses. Ballyneal includes the golf shop, a fine-dining restaurant and three lodges with private suites. For more information, visit http://www.ballyneal.com/ or call 970/854-5900.

Marathon Training

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With The Ben Cox 108 less than four weeks away, I admittedly began to wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew. The outpouring of support for the event and the Cox family has far surpassed my initial modest expectations, and along with that has brought the pressure of actually walking at least six full rounds of golf. This past weekend, I spent four days trying to prepare for the marathon. I'm happy to report that the legs feel fine, but the state of my game is in disrepair. If you've entered the 'guess the score' contest, you might want to revise your guess upwards. The pro shop might run out of Pro V1's before I run out of daylight on June 20th. Thankfully there is still time to right the ship.

I spoke to Ben and his mother the night before leaving for Denver. Ben is still in great spirits and the family is busy preparing for bringing him home. He is scheduled to be released from the hospital on June 14th. He is determined to meet this date as he desperately wants to be at Ballyneal on the 20th to cheer me and the half-marathoners on. He's also firmly committed to getting back on the golf course this year, and is using that engineering brain of his to figure out the best way to grip a golf club and make contact. We're hoping to get a specialized golf cart out at Ballyneal for Ben on the 20th so we can play a couple holes together.

The support from friends, fellow members, the staff and caddies at Ballyneal has been tremendous. I've gotten so many offers for guys to caddie for one of the rounds, I'll probably have an entourage of two or three helpers at any given time. Just call me Allen Iverson. Just in the past few days, we received three additional items to add to the raffle, including accommodations and golf at the Fairmont St Andrews (a convenient excuse to go play the Old Course while you're there), a threesome of golf at Skokie Country Club here in Chicago and a threesome of golf at a amazing golf course that I'm only contractually allowed to announce is a site of a future US Open (try to guess which one it is from the list below).

YearEditionCourseCityStateDates
2011111thCongressional Country Club, Blue CourseBethesdaMarylandJune 16–19
2012112thThe Olympic Club, Lake CourseSan FranciscoCaliforniaJune 14–17
2013113thMerion Golf Club, East CourseArdmorePennsylvaniaJune 13–16
2014114thPinehurst Resort, Course #2[5]PinehurstNorth CarolinaJune 12–15
2015115thChambers BayUniversity PlaceWashingtonJune 18–21
2016116thOakmont Country ClubOakmontPennsylvaniaJune 16–19
2017117thErin HillsErinWisconsinJune 15–18
2018118thTBAJune 14–17
2019119thPebble Beach Golf LinksPebble BeachCaliforniaJune 13–16


Here are some pics from a memorable weekend.


The par 3 5th hole. Obviously the world didn't end on Saturday evening, but if it had I was definitely going out in style!



The par 4 10th hole at sunrise.




 
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