In answer to the age-old question, How does a 45-year old, recovering non-golfer feel after completing a 100-hole charity golf marathon? I'd say, far, far better than expected.
We do a lot of crazy things in support of good causes, like write checks to complete strangers so as to lower our basis of taxable income, run marathons, and buy nutritionally-devoid, overpriced cookies from shady groups of young girls camped out in front of the local Wal-Mart.
So, when Charles Ramberg, a skilled artisan furniture maker and noted do-gooder for African and local children alike, asked me, Michael Fechter, if I would like to sponsor him as he participated in a 100 Hole Golf Marathon to support the Dee Norton Lowcountry Children's Center, a haven for children of suspected abuse, I said, Oh, hell no!
Hell no, partially because as an Orpan worker, Ambassador of Fun and columnist for GolfChannel.com, I have no basis of taxable income to reduce. And, Hell no mostly because this 100-Hole Golf Marathon sounded like the perfect way for the winner of the 1980 Al Esposito Junior Invitational to jump start my way back into becoming a golfer. So, rather than being Charles' sponsor, I talked my way into being Charles playing partner for the event.
Ah, yes, 100 holes. Mere childs play. Granted, I have never played more than 36 holes in a single day, so I was curious as to how one might actually complete 100 holes during the daylight available in late April? Even with a cart, it would be hard to play 18 in much under 3 hours, and we were looking at 5 complete rounds of 18, plus another 10 holes. Thats over 17 hours of golf -- possible in Nome, Alaska on the summer solstice, but not in Charleston, S.C. on any day of the year.
I arrived at the uber-exclusive Daniel Island Club at 7 a.m. to learn the realities of this 'Marathon Golf. Perhaps it would involve an actual marathon. I envisioned rich fat guys with rental clubs being forced to run the course while volunteers from the children's center yelled 'Keep it moving, Porky!!' For my money, that would be far more entertaining than even the dunk tank at the Kiwanis club fair.
I'll tell you one thing: someone at the Daniel Island Club sure knows how to run a golf course. There were more workers tending to the flower beds than were used to build the Panama Canal. And there, by the cart shed, was a spread of fruit, yogurt and energy bars a free breakfast that could be the difference in my staying solvent in 2008. Gotta stay grateful.
Of all the participants, I recognized none of the names except for Tucker Erwin, a kid who recently was an All-American junior. Gee, I wonder who might fair better in this 100 Hole Marathon, 'Trophy Case Tucker' or 'Basket Case Fechter?
As we neared, 8 a.m. and a shot-gun start, the head pro explained the 'rules' of Marathon Golf. From what I could gather, Marathon Golf is the Outback Steakhouse of golf, 'No Rules, Just Right!' (Please send all Outback coupons for this national plug directly to my P.O. Box.).
Marathon Golf is the greatest invention since M & Ms with peanuts or the French kiss. Marathon Golf is to serious golf what the Victoria's Secret Holiday TV Special is to '60 Minutes'. It's a great thing... only much, much better.
In Marathon Golf, you play as many balls as you want off the tee and into the green. You can play 10 balls on a par 3 and that counts as 'Ten Holes' of your 100-hole round. A par is zero points, a birdie is minus-1 point, a bogey is plus-1 point, a double bogey is plus-2 points and there is no score higher than a double bogey. You cant make a 'snowman' (an 8) in Marathon Golf. In Marathon Golf, Sam Snead would have won the 1937 U.S. Open.
In Marathon Golf, there is no out of bounds; everything is a lateral hazard, just drop another ball and play on. Perfect for a guy like me with a two-decade-long gap in his golf resum.
In Marathon Golf, all putts under 3 feet are automatically 'good.' Nobody misses a sliding downhill 3-footer or the 3-footer coming back. In Marathon Golf, Ben Hogan would have won an additional five U.S. Opens and about 12 more Master's.
In Marathon Golf, there are fewer rules than in marriage to Hugh Hefner. And yet, after the second hole, Charles Ramberg and I discovered that there were way too many rules in Marathon Golf. So we simplified it more.
Why stand on the tee and pound out 8 different drives? It takes way too much patience, concentration and effort, with none of my drives breaking 215. So, we decided that as soon as we had a ball in the fairway that we liked, it was time to play 8 balls to the green from that spot. There's eight holes, Mr. Hogan.
Soon, we decided that it would be just as good to hit a lot of sand shots or chip shots from around the green and count that as the number of holes. Marathon Golf was beginning to feel like the old practice rounds I would have on the day before a tournament, except with no seriousness to the day at all. It was beyond perfection.
There was no need to get upset with a bad shot, because you had eight more shots if you wanted them to get it right. Charles and I discovered is that we usually both hit a pretty good shot on the first try because there was no pressure. Im not sure that Trophy Case Tucker approached the day the same way Charles and I did, but give him 30 years, an ex wife and a months-long custody battle, and hed appreciate our take on the day.
After 100 holes in about 3 hours, we had a fantastic lunch with the small army of volunteers, the staff of Dee Norton Lowcountry Children's Center and other golfers. We then went out and played a private 2 Man Captain's Choice with the entire course to ourselves. By this time, we had hit so many sand shots, chip shots, drivers and wedges that we played just great.
The entire day could not have been better. After 100 holes of Marathon Golf, I felt that I had again 'found my game.' Its the first time I left a golf course beaming in years.
More importantly, over $40,000 was raised for children who need treatment and counseling for neglect and abuse. It was simply a day of good deeds and great, uncomplicated golf.
As was foreshadowed, Tucker Erwin, the All-American junior inexplicably won the Marathon Golf tournament. Just squeeze it in your trophy case, pal, because I was the true winner today.
So, if youre trying to knock off the winter dust, or just have trouble finding your game, put yourself down for a round or two of Marathon Golf. Marathon Golf takes out the seriousness and puts in the fun. Heck, I should know, I'm golf's 'Ambassador of Fun.'.
Tom Werner contributed to this column.
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