I received an unusual voicemail and follow-up text message from the boss while playing 9 on a Sunday evening: Any chance you can play 100 holes of golf tomorrow? I need a partner. Need to be there at 6:30 a.m.
Upon discovering the messages, I couldn’t call him back fast enough. The enthusiastic reply consisted of two letters: IN!
It happened so fast — and unexpectedly — I initially downplayed the magnitude of the opportunity. I returned home, prepared clothes and supplies (two dozen Titleist Velocity balls marked with green dots), and slept six hours. I pulled into the Elyria Country Club parking lot at 6:28 a.m. Dave Szy, our golf-loving publisher, arrived a minute later. We had can’t-believe-this-is-happening looks on our faces. We then tossed our clubs into separate carts and listened to final instructions before scooting to the course for the two-person scramble.
At 7 a.m., we hit the first of more than 350 shots, both missing the fairway on the 315-yard seventh, a par 4 featuring a perched green guarded heavily by bunkers. At 9:09 p.m., we hit our final shot, tapping in for a par on the 482-yard 16th, a par 5 with an elevated tee along the bending Black River.
What happened in between remains a blur. We made dozens of pars … and a few birdies and bogeys. We chatted … but never had an extended conversation because we always had another shot to play. We endured two stretches of rain … and one dead cart battery. We turned into golf machines, racing from shot to shot, hole to hole, round to round. Our bodies felt fine. Dave participates in Orangetheory classes; I’m diligent about mixing yoga and core work with daily cardio. We were both swinging golf clubs again two days later.
A terrific cause served as the impetus for the manic, magical and memorable Monday. Our parent company, GIE Media, is a supporter of the Orange Effect Foundation and the ambitious outing raised more than $47,000 to ensure children with speech disorders receive speech therapy and technology.
Fortunately, the foundation found a way to stage the event. Elyria Country Club, a fabulous William Flynn design on Cleveland’s far West Side possessing topography, shot variety and natural surroundings, proved a terrific host for the outing. The presence of 28 golfers hurrying to hit shots creates major morning maintenance conundrums. Dave and I have golf course maintenance experience, so we fully understood what the Elyria Country Club crew faced. But superintendent Patrick Rodgers and his team worked deftly around the madness. Their efforts will help dozens of children.
Unfortunately, not every organization relying on funding via golf can stage its outing this summer. Gathering sizes are still limited in many states. The typical charity outing contrasts the quaint event Dave and I experienced. Twenty-eight players riding alone is manageable. Properly spacing 144 players, though, is a significant challenge, especially if the event uses a shotgun start. Golf’s annual charitable impact had been approaching $4 billion before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to We Are Golf. The total will likely decrease in 2020 given the protocols and economic hardships related to the pandemic.
A few days after establishing a single-day personal golf record, I stared at a scorecard with six big numbers: 2:24, 2:31, 2:33, 2:53, 2:17, 1:26. The numbers represented how long it took us to complete the five 18-hole rounds plus the final 10 holes.
We had the easy part. We just showed up and played. Volunteers and course employees made tremendous sacrifices to keep this unique piece of golf’s gigantic charitable puzzle intact.They deserve at least one thank you for every hole we played.