Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Day Itself

Beep...beep...beep...beep. It's 3am and after sleeping for 5 hours my alarm clock signals that it is time to get up and play 10 rounds of golf.

I peered out of my flat window to see the streetlights fighting the thick mist that had graciously arrived in time for my challenge. A quick final check of clothing, supplies and equipment and I was off to the course. Mortonhall Golf Club is high-up on the south side of Edinburgh, and the closer I got to the course, the thicker the fog got. Out of the car, a quick stretch and I was on the tee.

With Mum, Dad and two family friends there to see me off, I lugged my pencil bag and half set of clubs to the the 1st tee (submerged by fog) and struck a slightly 7-iron down the fairway. Not because I hit a 7-iron 200+ yards, but rather to ensure I would be able to find my yellow Titleist ball.

 And so, after months of training and preparation, my 10-round challenge was underway.  

Round 1: 81 minutes. 81 shots. 
1 banana. 2 bottles of water.

No doubt the thickest fog I have played golf in and I didn't venture to more than a 7-iron for 8 holes. The holes were full of water and the course was very wet.  I started poorly and then found a rhythm around the turn to finish at 9-over par, highlighted by a 30 foot birdie on the last hole.

Round 2: 76 minutes. 78 shots. 
1 apple. 1 energy gel. 1 bag of trail-mix. 1 bottle of water.   

No sign of the fog clearing up, but I headed straight back to the first tee. Confident enough to hit a few 3-woods, I hit a provisional anytime I wasn't certain I had found the fairway. My first spectator of the day joined me on the 16th (Hole 34) and followed me over the last 3 holes. After a pulled tee shot on the last and now with a crowd of one following me, I made an overly ambitious decision to take on the green. 3 balls were sent right of the green towards the gorse bushes. Luckily, I found my first, and got up and down.

Round 3: 75 minutes. 76 shots. 
1 homemade roll. 1 banana. 1 bottle of water.

Mum, Dad and my visiting Uncle greeted me on the way to the first tee as I made good pace in some horrific conditions. A sliced tee shot on the first risked a first lost ball. However I did find it and got up and down from 50 yards for a par. I one-putted the first 3 greens and started to feel warmed-up.

The fog was lifting slightly and on the 7th hole (Hole 43) I saw a full shot land for the first time. I took out a homemade roll on the 8th and immediately had a stalker in the form of a crow. I thought "I need this more than you bud" and wolfed it down. Saw my first fellow-golfer on the 2nd tee as I played my 16th hole (Hole 52), and was greeted by another friend as I came to the 18th.

Round 4: 78 minutes. 75 shots. 
1 homemade roll. 1 banana. 2 bottles of water.   

Making great time and feeling good, I marched on with round 4. The greenkeepers were making their way around the course and I got several thumbs up and shouts of support. Started to hit the ball really well and began hitting lots of fairways and greens, ending up with 15 pars and 3 bogeys, playing through 2 two-balls on the way round. Fog appeared to be coming down again.

Round 5: 110 minutes. 72 shots. 
1 banana. 1 bag of trail-mix. 1 energy jelly. 1 bottle of water. 1 bottle of Powerade.  

I was joined on the 2nd tee (Hole 74) by a Ian, photographer from the local Edinburgh Evening News who followed me (in a buggy) for 2 holes taking some photos for the next day's paper. Having the press there seemed to help my game, as I hit a 3-wood to 15 feet on the 2nd, and a 7-iron to 10 feet on the short 3rd hole, prompting him to say "when I photograph the pro's, they don't hit it that straight". Cheers Ian - I'll pay you later!

I caught up a pair of elderly golfers on the 6th (Hole 78) and waited for them to putt out before marching on to meet them at the next tee. To my frustration and amusement they went out of their way to ignore me and continue to play at their pace. Hitting the ball no more than 100 yards at a time, they kept this up the...entire...way...round. Typical old-timers looking down upon a young guy clearly out just to cause trouble.

Round 6: 91 minutes. 76 shots.
1 homemade roll. 1 banana. 2 mini Mars bars. 2 bottles of water. 

Before teeing off I met Carolyn from the Make-A-Wish Foundation who was out to support and let me know that the local Scottish news wanted to do an interview. We set it up for 90 mins away and despite having already played 5 rounds, I battled on without a break.

A birdie on the 1st (Hole 91) inspired me to think perhaps an under-par round was possible, however some tired swings brought me back to reality. Two ladies stood aside on the 6th (Hole 96) and clapped me as I played through, replacing my divot and congratulating me on my challenge. A small gesture, but greatly appreciated.   I caught another pair of golfers on the 9th (Hole 99). They were a father and son visiting from Boston. The older gentleman asked me "Have you ever played here before?". To be honest, I don't think he was prepared for me to answer "Yes, I've already played here 5 times today".

No doubt he will return to Boston with stories of the insane endurance of Scottish golfers playing 5 rounds before midday in the rain.   I finished the round being filmed by the STV news and did a short interview by the 18th green. A quick chat to some people who had gathered to watch and I set back out for one more round before taking a break.

Round 7: 89 minutes. 74 shots. 
1 homemade roll. 1 banana. 1 flapjack. 2 mini Mars bars. 2 bottles of water. 1 bottle of Powerade.
With a physio coming to give me some help at 3.30pm, I played as fast as I could despite feeling some intense pain in my heels. In fact, this is the round when my body really started to wear out. I felt tired and weak and ate to combat what I could. I played through 5 groups of players and impressed one group in particular on the 13th (Hole 114).

Knowing I was out on the course, the group ahead were on the green, saw me, waved me through and stood at either side of the green. My thought was  "I am hitting a 3-wood, to a small target, with people on both sides of the green. This could get ugly." However, I stared down the flag and hit my 3-wood right at it, bouncing once short of the green, hopping onto the green, lipping the hole and finishing 6 inches behind the cup. Nice to do that in front of crowd, but my golf on the day and in this round, hadn't been quite so good.   Time for a break.

Round 8: 86 minutes. 78 shots. 
1 homemade roll. 1 energy gel. 1 bottle of Powerade. 2 bottles of water. 

I took an hour in the clubhouse, showering, changing clothes, taking on fluids and getting rubbed down and taped up.  Three rounds to go and my body was really hurting. The wet conditions made walking harder and my feet, especially my lower legs, were starting to feel pretty unstable. It showed too.

I sliced my first tee shot and didn't even look for it. I was joining by a friend driving a buggy around with me on the 8th (Hole 134). Great to see him and have some company, but the sight of a buggy didn't help my psyche. I birdied the 9th hole (Hole 135) in front of 4 visitors, holing a 30 foot putt. Always nice. Decided not to take the flag out before putting on the 13th (Hole 139), thinking I would just lag it up. Canned it, pin in, two-shot penalty, double bogey. Oh well. I was joined by  four members and friends towards the end of the round. Company makes a big difference. Nice change from thinking about which leg hurts more.

Round 9: 91 minutes. 79 shots. 
1 banana. 1 bag of trail mix. 1 energy gel.

My motivation was really struggling and this proved to be the most testing round mentally. Despite having company the whole way round, I constantly fought against the idea that I still had to do it all over again. I had rushed to the 1st tee without a break and in doing so didn't replace my water. I had about a third of a bottle left to do me this round. I was like a lost traveler in the desert for most of the round. My swing had become very "arms-y" and I was struggling to hit it as far as I had been. A couple of double bogeys and missed putts put me at 8 over on the last tee.

Knowing I had some donations resting on how many rounds I broke 80, I re-focused and hit a good 3-wood down the fairway. A chippy 9-iron found the green and 10 feet later made another birdie for a tired 79 on the card. I got yet another round of applause as I walked down the last from the clubhouse and people standing outside. One. More. Round. To. Go.

Round 10: 88 minutes. 76 shots.  
1 energy gel. 2 bottles of water. 1 bottle of Powerade. 

A crowd of around 15 people walked the round with me and the conversation and jokes took some of my mental focus away from what I was feeling inside. Putts started to drop as I holed from 15 feet on the first and 20 feet on the third. After playing the first 6 holes in one-over par, I birdied the 7th and 9th to turn in under par! Could I really break par on my 10th round? No. My first triple bogey of the day started the back nine and I got back to concentrating on speed rather than quality.

A couple more good shots inspired applause as I neared the end and one member playing ahead of me had written "Go Jamie! Nearly home" in the large bunker short of the 16th green. Another kind gesture from day surrounded by support. More people gathered on the last and as I reached the green, it become surrounded by 40 or so family, friends and members there to see me finish. My 20 foot birdie putt looked good the whole way, but ended up behind the hole. I tapped in for my 765th shot of the day.

A deep breath, some applause and a lot of hugs and it was over. Amazingly in a little less than 17.5 hours, I had walked 59.1 miles, climbed 4870 feet and played 180 holes of golf. Despite the weather, the day had been a success. I was able to play OK, and, when not stuck behind a couple of members of Dad's Army, maintain a good pace.

By the close of the day, the challenge had raised more than £14,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and whilst it had been mentally and physically exhausting, it had been worth every minute. A massive thanks to everyone who helped out and cheered me on the day. I never dreamt it would be the success it was and I am deeply grateful for all the support.

Someone challenged me to play 1 round in 10 days next year, so that sounds quite appealing...

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