Tuesday, 5 June 2012

8-Round Practice Day

Round 1. Hole 1.
4.11am. Usually I would be leading the Masters on the back-nine at Augusta, in my bed. But not today. Today, I am on the first tee at Mortonhall Golf Club, preparing for 8 rounds as a warm-up for my 10-round challenge.

On a strangely mild morning, and with plenty of sunlight already glazing over the course, I sent a slightly thin 3-wood down the fairway and off I went.

With 6 clubs in my Titleist pencil bag, I marched down the fairway with just an audiobook for company (Catching Fire, the Hungers Games sequel). With a strange sense of excitement and eagerness, I moved quickly hitting shots almost in-stride around the 6,500-yard course.

76 minutes gone and I tapped in a short putt on the 18th for a 76. Remarkably, I was managing to play pretty solid and eliminate any shots that would a) hurt my score and b) hurt my time.

With the clubhouse not open for another 3 hours, I reloaded my bag with water and food from my backpack, hidden behind the clubhouse, and headed back to the first tee.

Another good opening tee shot was joined by another good round. 14 pars, and 4 bogeys added up to 78 minutes, and I was flying around. The round was highlighted/lowlighted by an eagle putt on the 12th.

A relatively short par-5, I hit my 5-iron approach to 20-feet. In order to play fast, my plan was to hit long putts up to the hole then remove the flag. Looking at this 20 foot putt, I thought to myself “just hit it up close, remove the flag, and take a birdie” and therefore left the pin in. Of course, I rolled the putt dead-weight into the hole for a 3, but with a two-stroke penalty for leaving the flag in, I walked to the next with a 5.

Round 3. Hole 38. Company!
Just over two and half hours into the day, I was two rounds down and flying. The only cars at the club were some of the greenstaff slowly arriving for an early morning start on the course. However, I did finally have company on the course.

I made a birdie on the first hole for my first birdie of the day and walked confidently onto the second tee. I was ready to pull the trigger when I noticed an elderly man casually walking down the right-hand side of the hole. I waited patiently throughout the second and par-3 third hole, before he noticed me and waved me through.

After informing him of my goal to play 8 rounds on this fine day, he giggled and said “Forgive me for not joining you son.” Forgiveness was granted and I battled on having felt I lost time admiring the old man’s carefree amble down the opening holes. Just over an hour later and round 3 was in the books. 75, the lowest score yet with 4 bogeys and my opening birdie, all in 88 minutes.

A few members were beginning to gather at the club to try and be first on the tee on this holiday Monday. Whilst I smiled in the knowledge that I had already completed 54 holes, I marched back to the first tee to join in and continue.

Round 4. Hole 72.
Perhaps slightly over-confident, I took a lazy swing off the first tee, and sprayed it into the trees on the right. Knowing anytime looking for a ball is wasted time, I hit a provisional ball from my pocket and marched on. I glanced into the trees on the way up the hole, but conceded to the fact that my yellow Titleist NXT Tour was the first casualty of the day.

Held up a little early on, I played through 2 or 3 groups to get in front of the pack and finished in 101 minutes. 2 double bogeys, 2 bogeys and 1 birdie tallied up to a 77 and perhaps the mileage was finally catching up with my game.

Four rounds down, not even 11am, I took time to recharge. Recharge my phone which I was using to track my mileage, time etc and recharge my body which was beginning to feel the effects of the day.

A quick shower, change of clothes, some food and a visit to the gents, and I was back on the first tee, in the midst of a busy period of the day for golfers, as the sun continue to shine.

Round 5 will probably be remembered for the round in which I played through 8 groups of golfers as word got around the course that I was attempting 8 rounds. A poor double bogey on the short third hole, was off-set with birdies on 15 and 16, but ultimately another 75 was in the books, in a pretty slow time of 149 minutes.

Round 6. Hole 95. First Eagle.
The club was now officially busy. I knew round 6 had potential to be slow and I was right, but little did I know what it would produce otherwise. Simply stated, the bad news was 163 minutes is not the type of pace I was hoping for. The good news is that 65 shots in my sixth round of the day was pretty bloody good. With the pace slow, I settled into shots more and played the four par-5s in seven under par, eagling the first three!

So after playing 90 holes already, I tied my lowest score ever at my home course with only 6 clubs in my bag, and a double bogey! Proof that this really is a stupid game.

Six down and two to go, I need to recharge my phone some more to make sure I could gather all the data from the day, and I finished the last of 4 homemade rolls I prepared the night before. In fact throughout the day, I managed to consume 13 bottles of water, 2 bottles of Powerade, 4 rolls, 5 bananas, 6 apples, 2 chocolate bars and 1 packet of Jelly Beans.

Round 7 started fine. The course was busy as people headed out after a day in the office, or a day with the family. I got through 3 groups by the tenth hole and thought I might be able to improve on round 6’s time. But that was not going to happen.

Round 7. Hole 119. The roadblock.
I walked up the hill to the 12th tee and stood next to 4 middle-aged men playing a foursomes tie. As I had done all day, I didn’t impose on them, or “ask” to play through, but simply stood ready for the approval. For the next seven holes, I waited on every shot, and stood by them on every tee, and they didn’t acknowledge or speak to me once.

Caught up in their match perhaps, or possibly irritated by my continued pace behind them, they went about their business and didn’t bat an eyelid in my direction. Needless to say, I wasn’t overly impressed with their attitude, and whilst I managed a level-par 72 score, the 162 minutes was going to help my timing. 

The round was highlighted by a close hole-in-one attempt on the par-3 17th, that hit the hole and finished a couple of feet behind the hole. Safe to say if it had dropped, there were four middle-aged men that would not have been offered a drink in the clubhouse…

Round 8. Hole 130.
With the clock on the clubhouse reading 8.45pm, and light already dwindling, I gave my dying phone one last boost and waddled back towards the first at 9pm. Knowing I was going to be in a battle against the light, I broke into a light jog between shots and followed back into my opening round routine of keeping my bag on to putt and removing the flags only when needed.

My legs were fading, and my jog was more of an limped skip as I just did whatever I could to get done. 2 lost balls and a loss of enthusiasm resulted in my worst score of the day. In fact, my 8 foot par-save on the last hole capped off 80 shots in 75 minutes. Time: 10:15pm.

My dad was there to meet me at the end, both to make sure I survived the final round and to transport my body back to my flat.

I really didn’t feel terrible, just mentally and physically fatigued. My right heel had started to hurt during the middle of the day, so I changed from my golf shoes into my trainers for the last couple of rounds.

Chaffage had been the main obstacle throughout the day. The heat and constant walking had taken it’s toll and gave me a good indication of how it will be on June 27th. Shopping list priority: Baby Powder.

In total, I had played 144 holes, needing 598 shots, scoring 98 pars, 24 bogeys, 12 birdies, 7 double bogeys and 3 eagles, whilst loosing 4 balls on the day. I walked a total of 45.4 miles, in 18 hours 8 minutes, climbing 4,274 feet and burning in the region of 8,000 calories.

And that was just the warm-up! Stay tuned to hear how the final weeks of preparation go for the 10 round challenge in 3 weeks.

My donation page is almost at 50% with 3 weeks left. Please, please share the challenge and help the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Thanks, as always, to everyone for supporting. 

21 days...

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