Marathon Golf 100 Holes

By Michael FechterJune 6, 2008, 4:00 pm
Editor's note: Michael Fechter, orphan worker and humorist, has the best job in golf: he's paid to be the Ambassador of Fun for golf courses across America. His 'job' is to make the courses he represents across America more interesting, unique and fun. Enjoy his humorous series on getting back into the game as he struggles to get his game into the shape it was nearly 30 years ago when he won his only personal junior 'major,' the Al Esposito, on America's easiest muni with rounds of 71-71-75.
 
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.
 
Email your thoughts to Michael Fecheter
 
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    Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

    An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

    It was too much “socializing.”

    “I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

    Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

    “Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

    Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

    His plan for doing that?

    “Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

    Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

    McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

    Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

    So much for easing into the new year.

    So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

    McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

    “It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

    McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

    If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

    After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

    “It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

    McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

    It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

    “When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

    A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

    A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

    Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

    To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

    Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

    McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

    “I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

    A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

    “I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

    A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

    Getty Images

    Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

    SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

    The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

    Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

    Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

    ''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

    The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

    ''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

    Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

    ''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

    Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

    He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

    Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

    Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

    He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

    Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

    Getty Images

    McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

    Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

    McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

    Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

    McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

    Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”