The Fog, The Friendship and The Fury

What is a friend? Hopefully we all have them in some form. Some are close friends with whom we interact on a daily basis. Some are long lost friends spoken to annually. Some are old friends that will always be there when you need them. How can you tell if someone is truly a friend that can be counted on? I think I may have cracked the code on this one. Think of some of your closest friends right now...go ahead, I'll wait. Okay, how many of them would blindly agree to follow you around a hilly dunes-scape for hours on end, carrying a 25 pound sack, in conditions varying from wet, foggy, dew covered ground to searing 105 plus degree temperatures and up to 40 mph wind gusts?

4:36AM

We were greeted with a low dense fog that presented no more than 30 feet of visibility. I met trusted caddy and friend Doug Walton in the restaurant for a quick breakfast before heading to the first tee. There stood Jim Colton, the man behind the madness http://www.wegoblogger31.com/2011/06/ben-cox-108-give-or-take-47.html. He wasted little time blasting a drive into the fog laden abyss. I consulted Doug on how long we should wait before hitting our shot and we decided to wait 90 seconds and give a good yell down the fairway. With no response, tee was inserted, ball placed atop, my Hundred Hole Hike had commenced. Our strategy for the morning was to play as fast as humanly possible and reach 60 holes by 11:30am. The reasoning was simple, the forecast for the afternoon was high temps approaching 108, wind gusts up to 40mph. While the fog was difficult to navigate early, we luckily stumbled upon each ball and advanced to the next hole. After completing the third hole of the day, we encountered the first of many nourishment coolers strategically placed around the course. My good friend and fellow Ballyneal member Matt Schulte had gone to extra lengths providing Jim and I with magic electrolyte energy elixers. The goal is to drink one bottle per nine holes (along with gatorade, water, energy bars, etc.) to provide balance to the body's needs. As I took the first long pull out of the blue bottle, I was certain that Matt had finally found the perfect blend of bananas foster and septic water. Doug was amused, but politely declined my offer to taste for himself. The 27 holes that Doug and I spent together were a blur. We completed the first round in a mere 1hr and 34 minutes, and he always kept me focused and moving forward. It's astonishing to think that we finished 27 holes of golf before most courses allow the first group to tee off. There is no questioning Doug's strategic intelligence when it comes to caddying. His shift was finished before the temperature reached 80 degrees. Thank you Doug, I couldn't have set the pace without you!

As Doug retired to a shower and the drive back to Denver, I glanced upon the hilltop to see my smiling compadre and next caddy "Sugar Dumplin" AKA Mark Garza. It was an instant shot in the arm. Dumplin proved to be a jack of all trades. He was a DJ, green reader, motivational speaker ("You got this dawg"), hydration station ("drink this dude"), and comedian ('You tired yet hand? Cause I'm tired just looking at you"). As we approached hole 50, my pace had started to decline. Pain began to set in and the realization that I was nearing the halfway point started to populate my brain with weak thoughts. Recognizing this, Mark turned the heat up on my game. He encouraged me to play at normal pace without focusing on speed. I began to do just that, trading the speed golf concept for a more measured approach of focusing energy toward golf shots. This really paid off because we weren't burning energy looking for balls that were potentially lost in the Yucca thick edges off the fairway. This also led to a third round 73, which at 1 hour and 54 minutes probably makes for the best ball striking round of golf I've ever played. I decided after that round to continue using my time over the ball as rest periods for the remainder of the day.

11:19AM

As we finished another solid nine holes of golf, my friend and J-Crew catalog model Jason Nygren (AKA "Nygo") arrived to join the caddy Co-op on hole 64. Jason's combination of non-stop energy, pop culture references, fashion tips and outright belligerence is exactly what I needed to bring me home. Every time I'd hit a good approach, Jason would do the running man dance. Dumplin remained unfazed, eyes on the prize, mixing electrolytes into water bottles like it was his primary occupation. It was during the Dumplin/Nygo overlap that the laboring process began. From this point on, it was truly a grind. I kept trying to put one foot in front of the other, just complete one hole and move to the next. As we walked up the finishing hole of round 4, I was feeling it. The fact that we had completed 72 holes of golf before 1pm never crossed my mind. All I could think about was how in the world was I going to get in 36 more to hit my goal of 108. I needed a shower, an attitude tune up, and a Frog Tog.

12:39pm

I walked slowly to our room in the Ringneck Lodge where I showered, applied Body Glide (don't ask) to the necessary areas, and donned the Frog Tog (also a gift from Matt Schulte). The Frog Tog is basically a shoulder bib that can be soaked in cold water and worn beneath a shirt. It's essentially an igloo cooler for your chest and back. It proved to be an critical piece of equipment as the day wore on and temperatures soared. After choking down some turkey cold cuts, I hit the door and walked back to the tee of hole number 73. By this time, Dumplin had gone back to Denver leaving Jason and I to tackle the remaining 36 holes. We were met on the tee by fellow hikers Mitch Ehly and Brian Carruthers, both former assistant pros at Ballyneal. We decided to play the first hole together, and I quickly realized they would be going on without me. My legs had turned to mush and I was stumbling around like an arthritic zombie. I implored them to go ahead on the second hole and they obliged. Needless to say, we didn't see them again the rest of the day. Ground temps were rising and fan was blowing hard. Someone mentioned blast furnace conditions, their comment wasn't far off the mark. The next 34 holes were really a complete blur---the same painful caveman redundancy of hit, grunt, moan, find ball, hit, grunt, moan, putt, putt, bend over to pick up ball, howl...rinse...repeat. That is until the 108th hole.

6:58pm

After sinking a par putt on the 108th hole of the day, I was hit with mixed emotions. I was glad to have completed my goal, but there was still still sun in the sky. I just didn't feel like 108 was enough. I thought about the loved ones I had lost to cancer and the strength they provided me with thoughout the day. I thought of my friends Doug, Mark, and Jason and the support they provided over the previous 14 hours and 30 miles. And finally, I thought of the people who pledged to this wonderful cause. They were promised that I wouldn't quit until I either completely dropped or there was no light left. So on we went.

I thought we would have a pretty good shot at squeezing in nine more holes before the sun settled behind the chop hills, and that's precisely what happened. We were greeted at the 117th hole by Ballyneal's own JP and Gina. As we were carted back the clubhouse, the other hikers were making their way in as well. It's hard to describe the scene, it was kind of like the final round of the 2012 U.S. Zombie Open. It was then I saw my friend Jim Colton fresh off completing his 155th hole of the day. We shared an embrace. I fell to the ground as JP handed me two bags of ice for my legs. Like the others around me, I called my wife to ensure her I was okay, and made it through unscathed. The camaraderie of the evening was nothing short of spectacular. I will remember this day for the rest of my life.

MANY THANK YOUS:

Jim Colton:
Without you, none of this would have been possible. I'm proud to call you my friend.

Aimee Locke:
Thank you for introducing me to an incredible project. Your passion and support have been nothing short of amazing. You are a true inspiration.

My Fellow Hikers (Doug Walton, Brian Carruthers, Mitch Ehly, Rob Rigg, Rob Miller, John Miller, John Penny, Jim Colton):
I consider it an honor to have done this with all of you.

Rob Rigg:
Without True Linkswear shoes, I wouldn't even be a walking golfer.

Ballyneal Staff (Matt, Dave, JP, Casey, Gina, Jesus):
You kept us motivated, encouraged, hydrated, fed, and iced. The golf course was perfection (as always). Much love to the whole crew.

Mom and Dad:
Thank you for the excitement, encouragement, and support. I love you.

Jennifer:
Your support throughout the event kept me going. Thanks for updating those interested, and your encouraging words each time I called. I love you.

Leah:
Thanks for telling daddy to "Climb the Big Mountain". Love you baby.

Owen and Oliver:
I can't wait to tell you about this some day. Happy 1st Birthday! Love, Dad

The Hundred Hole Hike By the Numbers:
7 - Pairs of Socks (Kentwool)
3 - Pairs of True Linkswear Shoes (PHX,Tour2, Tour)
3 - Body Glide Applications
3 - Sunscreen Applications
1 - Frog Tog
75 - Approximate bottles of water/gatorade
5 - Bananas Foster Sewage Beverages

HOLE YARD PAR RD1 RD2 RD3 RD4 RD5 RD6 RD7
1 382-320 4 4 4 4 5 4 5
2 490-360 4 5 4 3 4 4 4
3 145-90 3 3 4 2 3 3 3
4 573-360 5 5 4 5 5 4 6
5 165-110 3 3 4 3 3 3 4
6 480-370 4 5 4 5 5 4 6
7 352-285 4 5 4 3 3 4 5
8 515-340 5 5 5 6 5 5 6
9 362-315 4 4 4 4 4 6 6
OUT 3464-2550 36 39 37 35 37 37 45 0
10 509-380 4 4 5 5 4 4 4 5
11 200-125 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 3
12 375-240 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 4
13 510-330 4 5 4 4 4 4 5 4
14 362-300 4 4 4 5 4 4 3 5
15 237-135 3 4 4 3 4 3 3 3
16 546-410 5 5 6 5 5 7 6 5
17 481-365 4 5 5 5 4 5 4 5
18 463-375 4 5 5 5 4 4 4 4
IN 3683-2660 35 39 40 39 36 38 36 38
TOTAL 7147-5210 71 78 77 74 73 75 81 38

HOLES: 117
STROKES: 496
SCORING AVG: 76.3
VS. PAR: +35
BEST BALL: 65
WORST BALL: 91
EAGLE: 0
BIRDIE: 8
PAR: 70
BOGEY: 35
DOUBLE: 4
OTHER: 0

Fairways 11 11 12 13 12 10 6 75 90 83.33%
GIR 11 10 12 15 15 10 8 81 117 69.23%
Putts 37 35 34 35 36 38 20 235 117 2.01

This Golfer's Participation