The Ben Cox 108 (Give or Take 47)


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.

If you were wondering why the event was moved to Wednesday, there was a huge hail storm that ripped through the course late Sunday night. Take a look at our rental car below and imagine what golf-ball sized hail could do to a golf course. Ballyneal superintendent Dave Hensley and his staff did a remarkable job getting the course in playable condition in a very short time period.

[Speaking of changing dates, I had an absolutely horrific experience with United Airlines on this trip. I don't want to detract from the flow of the event, but you can read about it at the end. Had to vent to someone.]

Wednesday was officially the first time I had seen Matt in shorts. He has surprisingly huge calf muscles rivaled only by a famous golf course architect that I know. I think below is one of the few 4-5 foot putts that I made all day. When trying to play fast, putting was the first thing to go. If it wasn't a birdie putt, I spent about 3 nanoseconds lining it up. I probably averaged 2.5 putts per hole. Those 82-84's were all rounds in the 70's under normal playing conditions, at least that's the story I'm going with.

I had originally planned on keeping meticulous stats on fairways, GIR's, putts, lost balls and number of times each club was used, but I had to scrap that plan after 11 holes after it was apparent we were playing way too fast to stop and write numbers on a scorecard. Speaking of clubs, I stuck with 10: driver, 3W, 4-6-8-irons and PW-GW-LW. This helped a lot because it was usually obvious which club to use in any situation. In fact, I might just stick to 10 clubs going forward.

Someone who also underestimated our pace was my buddy Adam, who lives about an hour away in Ogallala, NE. He sent me a text message at 6:05 AM saying he was going to come out around 6:45, when we would "just through Round 1" in his estimation. When he sent the message, we were already approaching the 17th green. When I updated him on our location, he replied, "Wow!" and revised his rendezvous point to the 27th hole instead.

Sure enough, right after I hit my tee shot on the 9th hole, I could see Adam lumbering down the fairway on his two new hips. He was there to greet me as I hit my approach shot, and asked for my 8-iron so he could help out for at least one hole. After five seconds, it was obvious that our pace was much too fast for Adam (or most humans) -- he motioned for me to take the club back from him and shooed me off along my merry way.

You couldn't have asked for a better day for golf. Wednesday morning was about 70 degrees, clear skies and virtually no wind. The wind picked up in the afternoon but was never more than 15 miles per hour. Coincidentally, June 22nd was Ballyneal's five-year anniversary. This is my favorite pic of the day:

Here's a pic of me duck hooking driver on the 12th hole of the first round. Given my poor play leading up to the event, I was really worried about my erratic driver and had planned to just stick with 3-Wood if the big stick ever misbehaved. Fortunately, I hit my driver relatively well and it never had to go into timeout. I probably used 3W less than any of the other clubs, probably a dozen times total (1st tee, 14th tee on and off, a couple failed attempts on 12 before I switched to driver, one failed attempt on #8 before I switched to 4-iron). One place the 3W did come in handy was the beginning of the 5th round, when Brian and I got up to the first green and realized that my putter and wedge were back at the pro shop with Matt. I putted with the 3W on the 1st green and almost made a 35-footer, before reuniting with Matt and my 2.6 putts/green Odyssey on the 2nd hole.

The pic below is from the 2nd hole of the 2nd round. We had a pretty good system going with Matt carrying the putter, lob wedge and whatever club was needed for the next tee shot, and Brian going out ahead with the bag and handling forecaddie duties and approach shot yardage and club selection. We played the first round in one hour, twenty-seven minutes. 1:27!

I had the pleasure of meeting and talking shop briefly with Bruce Hepner (aka Hep-B) the day before and he came out to say Hi when I was out on the 7th hole of Round 2. As a golf course architecture nerd, it took every ounce of energy for me not to be too reach out and hug the guy who was the lead associate for Doak at Ballyneal and is slated to build Ballyneal's second course (I've walked the proposed routing, and it's great) Bruce is a really cool guy.

Matt snapped and tweeted the pic below with the caption "opposites attract." This is one instance where the tortoise gets whooped by the hare. Take a suck of that, turtle!

My second shot on the 14th hole of round 3, about 4 1/2 hours after we started. This was the only time I birdied a par 4 all day and the closest I came to making an eagle. I was desperately hoping to make eagle on Wednesday. My plan was to direct message my 230+ Twitter followers and give them Jefe's cell phone number with specific instructions to say "EAGGGGGGLLLLLLEEEE!" as loud and long as humanly possible in one breath.

After two straight 84's, Round 3 was by far the best ball-striking and putting round of the day. In addition to the tap-in below, I birdied the 4th and 16th en route to a 4-over 75. Unfortunately, it was the only round in the 70's on the day.

We were playing so quickly, that we played through three different groups twice during their same round. The first was one a twosome on their 1st and 17th hole. Another was a foursome on their 1st and 9th hole. And the last was a foursome on their 3rd and 12th hole.

Hitting into the 63rd green of the day below at 10:29 AM. You'll notice the pinkish concotion in the water bottle. Unfortunately, the move from Monday and Wednesday meant that my good friend and fellow member Matt Schulte couldn't stick around and be there with me, but he did leave behind two coolers full of power bars, home brews, goo, gels, creams and clears. As I tweeted during the round: "Best golf bud and personal nuritionist Matt Schulte has me pumped with more chemicals than Ivan Drago." and announced later: "Matt 'Balco' Schulte's records have been subpoenaed and my orange hat no longer fits my head. Coincidence?" Like many before me, I just took it and didn't ask questions. I actually gained three pounds over the course of the trip, but lost a belt notch. No truth to the rumors that Schulte left Tuesday in order to flee the country.

After round 5, I took a 15-minute break to shower, eat and change clothes. Here I am teeing off on the 91st tee at 1:43 PM, with about seven hours of daylight left.

By this time, breaking the 100-hole record and getting to 108 was a foregone conclusion. The only question left was "by how many?" Of course, we all said that about Tiger Woods pre-Thanksgiving weekend. Here's an awfully confident bunch while only on the 91st tee.

Round six was by far the longest, taking us a whopping one hour and fifty-four minutes (embarrassingly slow). Some of the blame goes to my loose game (87), but like any good loop I'm going to place the blame squarely on my whipped caddies, who were running on fumes. During the first two rounds, we were all jovial, talkative and happy-go-lucky. By round six, we adopted the Shivas Irons (or Katie Holmes birth) practice of playing holes without a spoken word. Not because we wanted some oneness with the course, but simply because we didn't have enough energy to speak. Here I am in the bunker on hole #99.

This event has exploded since its humble beginnings. The entire 108-hole idea come out of a desire to reclaim the most holes in a day record at Ballyneal. As I mentioned many times before, caddie Nick Flaa and assistant Gary Nelson played 100 holes in a day last summer, just to get under my skin. Gary came out of the shop after I made the turn in round 6 just to enjoy his last few minutes as the record holder. Here I am on the 11th green, right after completing my 101st hole and reclaiming the throne. Sorry Gary.

Check out those black/red TRUE Tours. These aren't the most comfortable golf shoes I've ever worn. They are the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn. Period. I could sleep in my black/red's. They were my clean-up hitter for rounds 6 and beyond. I was going to try to break the 100-hole record last year, but there's no way I could've done it in the Ecco Freddy Couples that I owned last summer. The TRUEs are a revolution. I walked over 45 miles comfortably without any blister problems. What more proof does one need? You gotta get these shoes.

Here we are at our destination, the 108th green. Because of the guess-the-number-over-par pool, there was a lot of interest in my scores down the closing stretch. I finished double-bogey-double over the last three holes to come in at +70 for the first six rounds. Not great, but I thought I played pretty well all things considered. I cost somebody a foursome at Ballyneal due to a missed 2-footer on 16 and a lost ball penalty on 18.

This photo was taken at 3:35 PM. With over five hours of daylight left, did you think I was going to stop and play bocce ball?

Over the weeks leading up to the event, Matt told me he wanted to caddie for the whole 108. I told him he was crazy and tried to talk him out of it, but he was determined to make it (sounds familiar). Not bad for a guy in his 40's! A member even pledged an extra $250 if Matt could make it the full 108. Here is the chit sheet I filled out for his caddying efforts.

In between the 6th and 7th rounds, I had my second brush with golf-architecture celebrity. Golf Digest's architecture guru Ron Whitten was in the hizzie! I would've loved to have picked his brain for a couple hours, but there was more golf to be played.

[Besides, Ron was there to take a tour of Hep B's new routing. Based on his tweets this afternoon, does this sound any good? If only I knew a member...

 "Spent much of Wednesday walking thru sandhills as Bruce Hepner showed & explained each hole of his routing of new 18 at Ballyneal in CO ..."

 "Hepner calls the land "elegant." Much softer than existing Ballyneal 18, except for a few rugged holes. Great contrasts, wonderful routing.."

 "Hepner's be the most natural course since Sand Hills in NE. Every green site is already there, only 4 holes may need a little massaging."]

Brian lasted one more round, but was really hurting in Round 7. I believe extreme chafing was an issue, but I operated on a don't ask, don't tell policy like the military. Brian resorted to a slow-motion jig/jog in order to make it through the round. I should've captured his gait on video.

After Round 7, we had one last wardrobe change and one last line-up switch. Pro shop assistant Casey kept his role as bagman from the previous round and fellow member John took the walk-along job. Here we are on the 145th tee at 7:58 PM, with less than an hour of daylight left. The plan was to try to get 9 more holes in.

John read the greens, although he couldn't quite adapt his scratch reads to my mid-single-digit-capper game. We had numerous lip-outs in the last couple of rounds, mostly attributable to user error. John made a conscious effort to be Chatty Patty during the homestretch, and we had an enjoyable time talking about NBA hoops and golf. It was extra special because John was the man responsible for introducing me to Ballyneal back in 2008.

2nd fairway, 146th hole with Casey on the Bag

I call the last hour out at Ballyneal "The Golden Hour" because the place just glows as the sun is going down. Check out the 3rd green.

Here's John watching me mis-execute another one of his reads, but I still made par.

We were on the 4th hole when sunset officially hit around 8:19 PM. We would have to scurry around quickly just to complete the front nine. I ran up to my approach shot on #7, although it probably wasn't much faster than my brisk walk from 15 hours earlier.

Thankfully, the night was clear and I was hitting only 4-irons (my new best friend...215 and straight) off the 8th and 9th tees anyways, which made the ball that much easier to locate. We had no issues seeing the ball on the 152nd and 153rd holes, so...

...we decided to keep going. I just used a 4-iron again on the tee on #10, playing it as a three-shotter. Tap-in bogey there, pitching wedge up into the dark, but clear sky to just right of the elevated 11th green. Made a nice 2 1/2 footer there for par and that was that. I turned around and looked at John and Casey and with my best Forest Gump voice (which used to be fantastic, by the way): "I'm pretty tired...I think I'll go home now." Actually, I didn't say that, but sitting at my computer two days later, I painfully regret not thinking of it earlier. "Okay, that's enough," is all I could muster after putting out on the 155th hole. 155! Take a suck of that, Gary and Nick!

Because of the per hole pledges and a number of bonus kickers that folks had pledged for holes beyond 108 (namely my buddy Rich Choi, who is firmly in the doghouse with his wife right now), those extra 47 holes added over $10,000 to the cause. Following a bit on Twitter and later on Golfclubatlas, it was entertaining to read just how many holes folks thought I could get in after it was quickly apparent that 108 was not going to be an issue. Some extrapolated my first three-round pace and came up with 162-167. Others wondered if I'd stop after 7 or 8 rounds.

One guy who really doubted me was a GCA guy named Joe Perches. I hate to call him out here, because I've hosted him at Ballyneal and he's a decent guy. But I can't ignore the fact that he played a huge role in motivating me throughout. In fact, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he knew he was being motivational when he did it. So thanks, Joe!

This whole ball got rolling when I sent out a blast e-mail announcing my plans to do this golf marathon for Ben. I sent it out to my closest golfing friends and guys I had hosted out at Ballyneal, with the thinly-veiled threat that if they didn't pitch in 100 bucks, they'd never see the Chop Hills again (just kidding...maybe). Honestly, my initial thoughts were that if 25 of those guys pitched in $100, that $2,500 would help out the Cox family. Now we are quickly approaching THIRTY TIMES THAT initial estimate. Eventually, this event became just like the bank that I work for: Too Big to Fail. Falling short of 108 holes was never an option. Only a heart attack, lightning strike or rattlesnake bite could've stopped me (or at least slowed me down).

But early on, Doubting Joe was not quite as confident. He and I had the following exchange:

Joe: Good on you. Buck a hole. I don't think you'll get to 108, even using those fancy True shoes.

Jim: You obviously don't know me well enough.  I will get to 108. Actually, I think 120 might be doable.

Joe: Again, good on you. You've got 15:30 to 16 hours of daylight or so to get in 6 rounds. BN is a 5+ mile loop right? Are you a runner?  Done many marathons? Cyclist?  Done many 150+ mile days?
I'm a cyclist, but 150 miles is pretty tiring and that's only 10ish hours.

Jim: Not a marathon runner, just a golfer.

Joe also had by far the highest guess in the over-par pool, with a guess of +178 over par, or an average score of 100.7 per round. Six days before the event, he changed his tune a little, saying the most I could possibly play was "~125", slowed down because I'm supposedly "working on a bit of a paunch..." Again...beautiful motivation, Joe.

Of course, the sweet taste of vindication pales in comparison to the motivation to want to help out Ben Cox. Getting to know Ben over these last few months and seeing him on the golf course on Sunday has been a deeply moving experience for me. Like I said in the Father's Day piece, everything that I've done to help this family has come back tenfold. And I know others have been touched in a similar way. Ben has taught me to be bold. Bold in life. Bold in faith. To step out of my cozy, safe suburban comfort zone (what my wife calls the "Christian bubble") and try to use something I'm extremely passionate about to help out a brother in need. To turn something so ridiculously irrational and extravagant as a private golf club membership 850 miles from my home into something positive. To never take things for granted. How do you quantify changing a man from the inside out? That's what Ben and his family has helped do for me. For that, I am eternally grateful. 

One interesting dichotomy that I thought about leading up to this event and really hit home on Sunday was the fact that I was walking 45+ miles to raise money for a kid who may never walk again. How could I possibly complain about the pain in my knees or my legs? How could I complain about a duck-hooked drive into the yucca? I got to do the one thing I love to do more than anything for 16 hours straight on a Wednesday! My prayer is that Ben is someday able to feel the pain that I'm feeling right now. Maybe this event and this raffle will help make that prayer a reality. I selfishly pray that I'm right there next to him when it does.

Modified composite scorecard

How to give:

Send a check payable to: Prairie Home Baptist Church (memo: Ballyneal fundraiser)

Prairie Home Baptist Church
P.O. Box 271
Haxtun, CO 80731

Please give me a heads up e-mail at so I can keep tabs for the raffle. You will receive a raffle ticket for every $50 donated. Donations need to be received by Friday July 8th in order to be eligible for the raffle. The raffle will take place and winners notified on Saturday July 9th. See updated list of prizes along right sidebar.

By the numbers:

155 - Holes played
$80,000 - Money raised so far for the Ben Cox and the Cox family
16 hours, 8 minutes - total time spent on the golf course
45 - approximate number of miles walked (5.25 miles/round)
1:27 - quickest round (Rd 1) - 3.62 miles per hour pace
1:54 - slowest round (Rd 6) - 2.76 miles per hour pace
725 - Number of total strokes
+113 - Number of total strokes over par
41.44 - Scoring Average, front nine (+5.44 over par)
42.18 - Scoring Average, back nine (+7.18 over par)
83.62 - Scoring Average, overall (+12.62 over par)
4.75 - Lowest Scoring Average vs. Par, 16th Hole
5.38 - Highest Scoring Average vs. Par, 17th Hole
68 - Best ball score
108 - Worst ball score
12 - Number of Birdies
49 - Number of Pars
67 - Number of Bogeys
23 - Number of Double Bogeys
3 - Number of Triple Bogeys
1 - Number of Quintuple Bogeys
175 - Number of Three-Putts (approximate)

My Experience with United:

Here is my experience with United when I had to change flights due to the hail storm. I went through the process of changing flights for my wife and I from Tuesday evening to Thursday afternoon. I went through all of the steps of the online process, had everything set-up as desired, entered my credit card information for the change fee (total outlay $280), clicked submit an error message saying I had to call United to complete the transaction. So I called and spoke to an outsourced customer service rep, went through all the necessary steps, gave all the same information, then he put me on hold...for 30 minutes. Then I got dropped from the call completely!

I called back, got a different outsourced customer service rep, calmly explained what happened and she promised she would not put me on hold and would get everything right. We went through all of the steps again (their computers were slow and the systems were quoting prices in rupees instead of dollars, but after 90 minutes or so between the two calls, I finally got it sorted out. 

Or so I thought...I was walking up the 8th fairway on Tuesday enjoying a round in 35 mile per hour winds with my wife Sue and Mr. Balco. Then I got a text message from United saying that the 11:37 AM that day was scheduled to depart on time. They put us on the Tuesday flight instead of Thursday! So I had to postpone my hotly-contested match with Lance Armstrong, walk-off the course at the turn and call United back. Things looked up when I got a domestic rep and explained the comedy of errors on their part. He came back after 10-minutes of being on hold, saying they would waive the change fee for switching the flight to Thursday (like he was doing me a favor for fixing something that they screwed up), but that they would have to charge me $100/person because the fare for that flight had increased from the previous day. Can you believe that? They screw up and expect me to pay for it. After I tried to explain to them the flaw in that logic, I got the fool-proof, well-rehearsed retort: "I understand your frustration, but there's nothing more that I can do". The guy tried to claim that it must've been the Tuesday flight that was quoted at $280, even though I had two other failed attempts to book Thursday at that price. I ended up taking a later flight which was only $17/person more in fare, but turned out to be far less convenient as it landed smack dab in the middle of Chicago rush hour. Plus I lost my match with Schulte 2&1 and had to make The Climb, although I'm putting this match under protest.

So what does one do in this situation? I'd stop using United altogether if I wasn't already a Premier member. If American proactively offered me Elite status right now, I'd jump ship and never look back. Maybe somebody from United will read this and donate that $200 in incremental revenue that they tried to squeeze out of me to the Ben Cox cause. If they do, I'll take down this rant. Between the 5-hour computer freeze out, the 90-minute delay on our flight going out to Denver because our plane had way too much fuel (not a big deal, but five minutes after everybody boarded, they made everybody get off the plane), and this customer service debacle, it was not exactly the best week in United history.]

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  1. Anonymous said...:

    Good stuff thanks for posting.

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