Hike Day at Hidden Creek
I spent the weeks before my Hundred Hole Hike alternating between confidence that I could reach my goal of 108 holes and anxiousness as to whether I was insane and had bitten off more than I can chew. Pace, in particular, was one of my concerns, so to that end my family and I took a day trip down to Hidden Creek Golf Club the Sunday before my Hike. After the three of us completed an early afternoon round, I grabbed 7 clubs, threw them in a sunday bag and set out on my own to see how quickly I could get around the course. I played through a couple of groups, taking a little time as I was playing through to discuss the upcoming hike and ultimately made my way to the 18th tee in around 1 hour 50 minutes, running into several members with which I played the 18th. I breathed a little sigh of relief when catching up with my wife Khristine and son Christopher. If I could get my first several rounds of the Hike completed at a similar pace, I liked my chances of reaching my goal.
We made our way back to Hidden Creek on Tuesday evening, sitting down for a quick meal before hopefully getting a good nights sleep. In a sign of how supportive the club was and how interested they were in my success, when I ordered a chicken dish, I was told instead of the chicken, "Chef John has prepared a special pasta dish just for you so that you can load up on carbs". Pasta it was. It was great, and despite my best efforts, more pasta than I could imagine eating. Loaded with carbs I was.
We got ourselves settled in the lodge, set the alarm for a little after 4am, and got a reasonable nights sleep. Waking up on Hike day, I felt rested, I felt a calm given the success of the previous Sunday's test run, and I certainly still felt full thanks to Chef John's pasta. I gathered my Nunn electrolyte tabs, my Gu energy gels, my almonds and energy bars and we set off for the first tee. My wife Khristine would be the first one on my bag and the club had staged a push cart for us by the first tee. I had been figuring that there would be sufficient light a little after 5am to get started. It was 5:08am when I hit my first shot. Soon as I hit my drive, I immediately said "I have no idea". So much for thinking there was sufficient light. I knew I had pushed it to the right and we both waited quietly to hear if we could hear the ball hit ground. We did, and while I couldn't be certain that I hit fairway, I felt fairly certain that the sound we heard wasn't the ball coming down deep in the fescue (that would be later). We found it in the first cut and I would go on to bogey hole #1. The rest of my front nine however would be a string of poor drives, inconsistent approaches and, for someone who considers himself a good putter, not one putt that I felt happy about. Pace was great, but I felt zero rhythm, live tweeting as much after my front nine 51.
Hole #10 I hit a great drive (for me). The picture above is me walking with purpose down #10 fairway. #10 being one of the extremely long par 4's on the course, I didn't get there on my approach (nothing new, I often play this hole as a par 5). After a poor chip, I had about 40 feet for my par. The minute I hit the putt, I knew it had a chance. A double breaker that snaked right towards the hole, I put it in the center of the cup. I commented to Khristine how the maintenance guys would get a kick out of it once they made it to this hole as with dew still on the ground and us the only souls on the course you could make out the whole path of the putt from putter to hole in the dew marks on the green. I had my first par. A sigh of relief. I would turn to Khristine on hole #13 and comment on how much of a wasted opportunity it was to not have taken a picture of the 10th green so I could tweet the putts path through the dew. I felt great though. The first soul we would see during the day would be Clark, the Golf Course Superintendent, cruising around on his bike through some trails asking if we needed anything and letting me know that they would be moving pins to ensure I wouldn't face any evil/sucker pins during the rest of my day. I would complete the back nine in an 8 over 43. After hopping in the cart that the club had staged for us at #18 green, we were back on the 1st tee about two hours after I had hit my first shot.
I would go on to shoot a front nine 42 in Round 2, during which Khristine reached the conclusion that me not having much time to think over the ball, really, really works for me (I'm typically a mess of swing thoughts, part of the reason I am the third best golfer in my own house). Christopher would meet us at the 9th green and join the caddie ranks. Having both of them tag team caddie really helped the flow and pace and after an ugly, ugly snowman 8 on my 28th hole of the day, I would go on to make 4 pars on the back shooting 45 for a round of 87, a personal best at the time. In the process, Christopher joined Khristine wondering who the guy was that was hitting good drives, irons and putts, clearly it couldn't be his dad. After a shoe and sock change, it would be me and Christopher for the front nine of Round 3 and after 5 pars and a personal best 41 Christopher could barely contain his wonderment at how I was possibly playing this well. Joe, a colleague from work joined us on the green of my 45th hole and would take over caddie duties for the next 18 holes. In the midst of a back nine 43 and a personal best 84, Joe too would show amazement and just laugh after I would hit fairway after fairway with my drives. He too had never seen anything in my previous golf with him to suggest that what I was doing was possible. I was still logging my rounds in approximately 2 hours per 18. I felt good, was playing some good golf, and was making my way around the course at a pace that I felt good about.
I would shoot a 44 on the front nine of Round 4. Given that it was a beautiful golf day, low 80's and sunny, the course was beginning to get a bit more crowded. While I was to be given preference on the course, we were beginning to run into a bit more traffic that we needed to work our way through. Everyone was great, inquiring what I was up to, wishing me good luck and letting us play through. Todd, a Partner for Deloitte, my company's auditor, would throw my bag over his shoulder and take over caddie duties on hole #64. On hole #67 Todd would comment "I don't know who you are, but I'm liking it" after I split the fairway (another one surprised at my play). A back nine 45 for an 89 in round 4. Good round for me, but some loose shots were finding their way in between the great one (in other words, normalcy was returning). Having to work our way through groups on the course, sub 2 hour rounds were a thing of the past.
Round 5 for me would really, really be a grind. While I thought at the time I was doing a good job keeping myself hydrated and ingesting sufficient energy, in hindsight I suspect I wasn't. Eyes started to sting a bit, the great shots were fewer and further between. I had begun to lose all sense of speed on the greens. Despite Todd best efforts, chatter between shots started to decrease. While groups we were playing through expressed amazement at some of the shots I was hitting after having already played over 80 holes, I knew I was really beginning to struggle. I would shoot 46-48 for a 94 and there wasn't a par to be found over the last 10 holes of that round. From the beginning of Round 3, my consecutive nine hole scores were 41-43-44-45-46-48. I didn't like where this was heading. I didn't know if it was going to hurt or help, but I decided to head into the clubhouse for a shower and wardrobe change.
I emerged from the locker room refreshed with a new pair of shoes, the HHH Limited Edition Trues, as well as my HHH logo'd Linksoul shirt. It was time to make the march to the 100th hole, my personal goal 108th hole and hopefully some more for good measure. Khristine and Christopher were back on caddie duty, with Christopher carrying my sunday bag with a reduced complement of clubs. In terms of quality of play, there was a bit of an improvement from a very tough Round 5. I would record my first par in what felt like forever and would shoot 45 on the front. Not stellar, but at least it sent my nine hole trend -line in the right direction.
We would walk up to the 10th tee (my 100th hole) to find the entire Hidden Creek professional staff waiting for me. They would walk the 100th hole with me. While I didn't crush my drive, it was decent and found the middle of the fairway, official 100 Hole Hike flag waving in the distance. Mentally, I patted myself on the back for playing well for the gallery. A topped hybrid, pulled wedge, duffed chip, and not much better follow-up, I would find myself putting for double, which I would miss. Triple bogey on my 100th hole with the entire professional staff observing the whole thing; really? I had only one quadruple (on the same hole), and one other triple the previous 99 holes and I need to triple my 100th with everyone there? Oh well. There is always next year.
On my 101st hole, a par 3, Christopher grabs a ball out of my bag and a club and announces that he is going to hit a shot. He hits a good one. Its a skyline green, so we can't see exactly where it ends up, but we know its good. I hit my tee shot and know that I hit it close (of course the entire professional staff is comfortably back in the clubhouse). We get up to the green to find Christopher 10 feet and me about 7 feet from the pin, on identical lines. I would be able to get a great read from Christopher. He gets up and rolls his birdie putt in the center of the cup, a little left to right break. I get up and....push the putt a touch. Christopher 1 hole, 1 birdie. Me, 0 for 101 in the birdie department. I would shoot 44 on the back for a round 6 89 and more importantly, I would reach my personal goal of 108 holes.
I was intent on getting more holes in and with it only being 6:30 we set out for Round 7. Christopher decided he was going to play the 9 with me. I started par, par, beating Christopher on both holes and beginning to feel that the magic of round 2 and 3 was coming back. That wouldn't be the case. They would be my last pars for the day. Everything seemed to start catching up with me. The body that had been feeling great all day wasn't feeling so great. The quick gait between shots that I had been keeping all day was gone. Mentally I began to feel that 117 might be it. Christopher went on to roll in birdie putts on my 115th and 116th holes, his 8th and 9th holes during the day. Very cruel, don't you think? We would walk up the 9th hole together and after sinking my putt there would be hugs all around over the accomplishment of 117 holes in one day. I was done.
My Hundred Hole Hike was the most rewarding, exhilarating day I've had on a golf course. Over $5,600 was pledged to The Hansen Foundation in connection with my Hike, which is deeply satisfying. I've heard testimonials first hand from those that the Foundation has helped on their road to addiction recovery and I am gratified that I was able to help in this way to ensure that their important work continues. I'm extremely thankful to all that pledged support to the Hansen Foundation in connection with my Hike. I'm thankful that I was able to experience the days important milestones with my family. I'm thanking for the friends who helped caddie, and I'm thankful to the entirety of the Hidden Creek Golf Club staff who were wonderfully supportive leading up to and during the hike. It was an incredible experience and a fantastic day.
SCORING AVG: 89.4
VS. PAR: +119
BEST BALL: 73
WORST BALL: 105
PAR-3 AVG: 3.85
PAR-4 AVG: 5.13
PAR-5 AVG: 5.85