Thursday, 19 June 2014

They think it's all over...

After many months of planning, changes to format, personnel and even location, the great charity golfathon of 2014 is finished. Having had a few days to recover and reflect on what happened, it's now time to share a summary of events.

Thursday 12 June - 4.45am - Ringmer, East Sussex. Daylight pierces through a gap in the curtains, stirring your author from his much-needed slumber. A glance at the clock and the realisation dawns that today is the day - 5hrs sleep isn't the best preparation for what lies ahead. After scrambled eggs, toast & coffee, we're ready to get it on.

Thursday 12 June - 6.55am - Mid Sussex GC. We arrive at the golf club to find a car park filling up and other members of Never Up Never In getting prepared for the off. Supplies, spare clothes & tents are moved from cars to buggy for the transfer to the halfway hut, our base camp for the next 24hrs. Golf gear is organised; suncream is liberally applied & drinks are collected - we are almost ready for the off.

Thursday 12 June - 7.38am. The three groups had taken their places on tees 4, 6 & 8, ready for the blast of the shotgun* to signal the time to get going. The clock ticked over to 7.40am - one swift swish of the driver, a click of metal on polyurethane & the ball traced an all-to-familiar path from tee to cabbage and we were underway.

*there was no actual shotgun, disappointingly

Thursday 12 June - 10.14am. Your author's group found themselves leaving the 3rd green, the first 18 holes having been completed in a brisk 2hrs 34 mins, and made their way, creatively avoiding the building traffic, to the 8th tee in order to maintain some pace and avoid waiting. Could this pace be maintained as the day went on? Er, no.

Despite the promise of being granted courtesy of the course, and members being notified of our presence, it became apparent that our searing pace of play was as unfamiliar as it was unexpected. Whilst the vast majority of groups encountered were supportive & accommodating, allowing us to play through without impediment, it was a shame to come across some who were less than enthusiastic about our endeavours and, indeed, our creativity when it came to keeping moving and avoiding hold-ups.

What lifted the mood somewhat was the arrival of Mark Walters, an OCF member from Folkestone, who had the intention of playing 18 holes with us. He rotated between the three groups and actually stuck it out until well after 7pm, getting through more than 50 holes, which is incredibly impressive for someone with 'one foot in the grave'. It made a real difference to the day to meet someone who has personally benefitted from the help that OCF provide - we all wish Mark all the best in his quest to make the GB team for the forthcoming Simpson Cup.

Thursday 12 June - 2.54pm. Fast forward a few hours and, stepping on to the 9th tee, your author's group prepared to play our 49th hole with the prize of a bowl of nourishing pasta & a Guinness awaiting us at the clubhouse. Getting round the course in the way we had, jumping ahead of slower groups and avoiding traffic jams, was a strange feeling to get used to, particularly the repetition of certain holes and, due to the layout, not playing other holes as much.

Thursday 12 June - 5.20pm. Having had a slightly longer break than planned, it was nearly 4pm before we got going again and, with the traffic issue failing to dissipate, our group chose to divert to the 13-18 loop after playing the 1st, bringing a sense of deja vu as we returned to the 1st tee just 80 mins later, having completed 56 holes. It would be fair to say that the quality of golf on display was starting to drop, the day rapidly moving towards the process of attrition that the overnight spell would inevitably become. Niggling aches & pains started to be more noticeable; each retrieval of golf ball from hole slower than the previous.

Thursday 12 June - 6.30pm. The sight of the halfway hut behind the 7th green, as we came to the end of our 63rd hole, was even more welcome than it had been in any of the preceding 11 hours, knowing that our tired legs would shortly receive salvation at the hands of Rachel & Bill from Equilibrium in Lewes. When informed of the plan that we would have sports masseurs available, I will admit to being a tad dismissive of the requirement. I now stand corrected, as it was a godsend. Thank you both for your help.

Thursday 12 June - 7.10pm. Having hauled ourselves back on our feet after our massages, forced aching feet back into increasingly heavy golf shoes and got ourselves going again, it was tough to find ourselves back on the 2nd tee for what felt like the twentieth time (traffic on the 8th forcing a detour). Soldiering on, we knew we were within touching distance of our previous milestone, the 72 holes completed on the Macmillan Longest Day in 2011 and, putting out on the 10th green, the clock ticking past 8.30pm, we found ourselves in uncharted territory. How would the bodies, minds & swings cope with the fact that we were only just over halfway through our available time? How slow would the golf be overnight? Would anyone drop out? The answers to all these questions, and more, were soon to be revealed.

Thursday 12 June - 9.50pm. The sun had set, the last few dregs of daylight helping the final group find their way along the 18th hole and a well-earned break. As the 9 of us sat down outside the clubhouse in the gathering darkness, tucking into our freshly-delivered pizzas and ice-cold beers (an athlete's dinner), we reflected on what had gone before. Your author's group led the line with 80 holes completed; the other two groups were a little behind with 70 & 69 done but we were all safe in the knowledge that, even with an hour's rest, we still had nearly 9 hours of playing time left. Armed with that information, the group practically leapt* out of their chairs to prepare for the night shift - glow sticks had been diligently added to tee boxes, hazards and flagsticks by the last group and so, once everyone had got their balls glowing, we were ready to step into the unknown.

*it was a slow process, with lots of groaning

We had decided, in the interests of pace of play & proximity to base camp, to focus our night golf on a loop of five holes - 1, 8, 11, 12 & 13 - which provided a mix of two par-3s and three mid-length par-4s and were also practical to tackle when the longest club being used was a 7-iron.

Friday 13 June - 02.10am. After starting with night balls that glowed after being struck, we soon discovered that price doesn't necessarily equal quality, the balls failing one after another to leave us using Glowballs. Our initial misgivings about a ball which required 'charging up' by shining a torch on it, soon gave way to satisfaction about the performance & feel off the club. A top tip - if anyone out there wants to do something similar, use Glowballs as they're really quite good. As the night progressed, we all felt our bodies starting to protest that much louder until, much to our disappointment, Ash declared himself done after completing 100 holes. This then presented Pete & I with a number of challenges, not least motivational & the reliance on each other for conversation.  Nevertheless, we soldiered on, even when discovering that the other 6 players had also decided to rest their legs at base camp.

Friday 13 June - 03.45am. The first chinks of daylight had started to filter across the tree line to the east of the course and, as the sun crept closer to breaching said trees and flood the course, the decision was made to switch from night balls to regular Srixons for the final push. Your author's & his remaining partner had steadfastly refused to yield to growing fatigue, continuing to bunt the ball around the course (finding the same bunkers with alarming regularity) but making steady progress. In all, we completed 35 holes during the roughly 5 hours of darkness we negotiated which, all things considered, is a fairly fresh pace. As we came back past base camp, having tackled 114 holes, we discussed strategy with the others and decided we had a practical window of 3.5 hours to make a lunge for the line and get a final, regularly-ordered 18 holes in before our deadline of 07.40am. One last charge-up of drinks, snacks and Nivea (for a sore arse, in case you were wondering) and it was game time.

Friday 13 June - 07.35am. At last, the final hole is here. Having accepted that it would be unfeasible to dash back to the 18th tee and get another hole done in time, we walked down our 133rd hole with a huge sense of satisfaction, tinged with a hint of absolute agony & biblical fatigue, that we had achieved what we set out to achieve. We knew the other teams had all done 112 holes each so, even with Ash being forced to stop, we were comfortably beyond our 1000 hole threshold. It's fair to say the final tee shots weren't particularly brilliant but, frankly, we didn't really care. There was great relief when the final ball hit the bottom of the cup and we could shake hands & celebrate the achievement of the group.

I must say a huge thank you to Lee at Mid-Sussex GC for all his help in getting this challenge off the ground; to Mark Walters for sticking with us and keeping our spirits up; to Gavin for his patience & fortitude throughout; to all the sponsors, friends & family without whom none of this would have been possible; to Pete, Ash, Peako, Aggy, Pughy, Simon, Murray & Graham - thank you for being equally idiotic in agreeing to complete this challenge.

1039 holes completed by 9 golfers in 23 hours and 55 minutes.

That'll do, gents.

That'll do.

I am the Part-Time Golfer

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Golfathon 2014 - The Final Countdown

The clock is ticking. The wait is almost over. We are into the final week before the start of what is probably the greatest golfing challenge in the history of the world, EVER.

OK, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but it's certainly fair to say that what we are taking on is no mean feat, especially as we have got closer to the kick off and the reality of what we are attempting becomes apparent.

The major piece of news follows on from the last entry, and concerns the discovery of a clash at one of the venues. After some careful consideration & discussion, we took the decision to abandon the plan of having a Team Bedfordshire and bring that team together with the other two groups at Mid Sussex GC, so we will be all in one location.  This was not an easy decision to make and I will always be grateful for the support, interest and involvement of Julie at Colmworth GC but, in the circumstances, it was absolutely the right call to make. Habing experienced the Macmillan Longest Day challenge in 2011, I certainly wouldn't have enjoyed that if we had been 'sharing the billing' with another group, regardless of their goals and fundraising activities - with that in mind, we thought it best that we secure the collaboration & camerarderie of having all three teams together by clearing the path for the folks at Colmworth.

Equipment needs have largely been met, the final shopping list discussed this morning and the logistics of getting us all together are basically there. I will be trying to source some last-minute additions to the stash whilst in New York this week but I think we are pretty much sorted.

We are also pleased to receive confirmation from On Course Foundation that one of their members, Mark Walters, will be joining us from 10am on Thursday. It will be a humbling experience to play golf with this man and hear some first-hand details about the work that the charity do for these folks.

Finally, the regular sponsorship beg - we continue to make solid progress towards our target but there is, as ever, a long way to go and we need every penny we can get. Please, if you can spare anything at all we would be eternally grateful - www.bmycharity.com/golfathon is the link. Thank you.

If anything else crops up between now and Thursday, I'll be sure to let you know. Wish us luck.

I am the Part-Time Golfer

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Weekly golfathon update - <2 weeks to go

I did give you fair warning that there was a good chance the regularity of updates would fade as time went on - it's been nearly two weeks since the last entry and, with the event creeping ever closer, it's time for some more info.

Main news has been the astonishing progress made on sponsorship, particularly in the last 48 hours. Having ambled along our 'Road to £10k' since kicking off the requests for cash, there was a genuine concern that we might fall embarrassingly short. Thankfully, those fears are proving to be unfounded, due to the generosity and willingness of so many people to dip into theit pockets and support this fabulous cause.

A flurry of individual donations took us through the £1000 barrier early on Thursday, followed by the first of the matched funding pledges from team member's employers. I must say a massive thank you to the folks at Santander and Legal & General for their extraordinary donations which, along with further individual support has pushed us very close to the £4000 mark. We are all so grateful for everyone who has donated although we still have a long way to go to hit the target! The fundraising page is www.bmycharity.com/golfathon and anything you can spare goes a long way.

The other news is publicity - I would also like to thank EM Acoustics, the excellent loudspeaker manufacturer, who very kindly provided us with somewhere in the region of 1000 professional flyers to hand out & post through letterboxes. The folks who run EM have been great supporters of my absurd charity golfing ventures and their generosity on this occasion is fantastic - thanks!

Now on to the topic of practice - since our 27 hole get-together at Farnham Park a couple of weeks ago, little has happened from a personal perspective until right now, where I am midway through a two day, two round trip to Royal Birkdale. With (yet another) trip to the US due next week, this represents the last chance for any semblance of practice before the off.

Ah.

Anyhoo, the Sussex folks took it upon themselves, having had a second 27 hole day immediately after ours, to get some night golf practice in on Thursday. The feedback was that it was an 'interesting' experience, made all the more challenging with the lack of glow sticks on the flags and, additionally, glowing & flashing balls that didn't - or at least, not for very long. Some equipment challenges to test us to the very last minute then.

The final thought for this entry is a bit of a dilemma (a rhetorical one really - please don't write in) - I discovered late yesterday that, on the same day as the golfathon, there will be another group completing the Macmillan Longest Day challenge (72 holes in the one day) at Colmworth GC. I don't believe there will be a logistical problem in terms of getting in each other's way, but I am concerned about the impact on the attention & awareness that having two golfing marathons running simultaneously will have. I have put this situation to the while team and, interestingly, there is a groundswell of opinion towards bringing all three teams together in the one venue in Sussex.

Clearly there is a logistical hurdle or three to overcome (not least the publicity associated with Colmworth and not wanting this potential change to come across as a dummy-spit) but it's an unexpected topic to mull over and, even after sleeping on it last night, I am no clearer in my mind or nearer to a decision about what to do.

I am the Part-Time Golfer

Monday, 19 May 2014

Weekly golfathon countdown - 3.5 weeks to go

Yet again I have failed in my self-flagellatory task of maintaining a weekly update for the blog, so this is a bumper two-and-a-half week edition!! 

OK, fine, so it'll be pretty much the same as all the others, just more than a fortnight since the last one. Stop whining, for feck's sake.

Nutshell update: 

Sponsorship has a bloody long way to go, corporate matched funding notwithstanding - there have been some conflicts for the various members of Team Never Up Never In, with rival charity events vying for the hard-earned funds in people's pockets, but this week is the time to really push on and make some progress, particularly towards the key thresholds at which matches funding from corporates will kick in.

36 hole practice day was planned for Sunday at Farnham Park GC, nr Slough; two-thirds of the team (eventually) met up yesterday afternoon for a hit in the blazing Berkshire heat. Sincere thanks are to be extended to On Course Foundation for their kind provision of the banner and the orange golf shirts, which certainly help us to stand out from the crowd. Additionally, our friends at Pernod Ricard have very kindly donated a set of Ballantine's Championship IJP Design shirts & jackets - both these equipment donations are incredibly generous and make a big difference to the success of the event. In the picture below, Dave & I are sporting the orange OCF shirts, whilst Gary, Simon, Pete and Graham are modelling the Ballantine's gear

Media coverage is starting to pick up - we had articles published on the Golfmagic & Golfing for Charity websites plus we have James Corrigan from The Telegraph & Golfshake also preparing to write about our venture. Our expectation is that this additional coverage will help to drive attention, support & sponsorship so please look out for these articles and help us reach out target.

A number of equipment supplies are still required, with many a begging letter going unanswered. We have a desperate need for night golf gear, with a couple of promising leads not yet coming to fruition. If anyone is involved with, or knows of contacts for, suppliers of energy bars/drinks and night golf equipment, please reach out to us!

So all in all, lots still to achieve before we can get cracking with this event and not very much time left in which to achieve it



I am The Part-Time Golfer

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Weekly golfathon countdown - 6 weeks to go

One could describe the passing of the T-6 weeks barrier as entering the final lap; the home stretch before completion. In reality, the sense we have as a group is that we're only just getting started. We had a 'committee' call last night where some final details were planned out and agreed.

We have our sponsorship emails written and ready to hit inboxes around the world. This means that if your email address is known by anyone in the group, you'll get a beg for some of your money. We shan't apologise for it. The financial target we have set ourselves is punchy, to say the the least, and, whilst we do have some matched funding avenues from various employers, extracting the maximum benefit from these schemes is only possible with the generosity & support of our friends, family & colleagues. Our sponsorship page is www.bmycharity.com/golfathon and anything you can spare would be gratefully received.

Publicity is the next hot topic - I mentioned previously about our contact at The Telegraph and Dave was able to confirm that their initial coverage will kick off following our practice day on 18 May (venue tbc). We are hopeful that this will accelerate the interest in what we are attempting, plus boost the support in terms of equipment, supplies and even cold, hard cash. There are a couple of other avenues to explore and these will be followed up over the next week.

Practice - you may remember, way back in the depths of winter, we had some grand ideas about an iterative and escalating practice/training schedule, building us up nicely to the main event. The harsh reality of a myriad conflicting events & commitments has led us to a new position of 'Ah, feck it - we'll be ok' - we are going to get together to play some golf on the 18 May, but it won't be 72 holes and, in all probability, it won't be 54 holes either. I am expecting to do 36 holes at a 'fresh' pace - to have a slight element of practice, we should be aiming for 2.5-3 hours per group. Time will tell if that is feasible.

Finally, the topic of equipment was raised, particularly what we would need for the two (or more) rounds we'll be playing in the dark. We are still hopeful of having an enthusiastic & generous sponsor to assist with night golf gear but, in the eventuality of that avenue not coming to fruition, we've drawn up a list of items to beg, steal* & borrow to get us through those holes.

And so what lies ahead? Well, I am back off to the US next weekend (with at least one round of golf to enjoy - did I mention it will hopefully be at Pebble Beach!) &, on my return, we have the practice day. The big kick-off creeps ever closer....

I am the Part-Time Golfer

*this is a figure of speech, clearly

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Weekly Golfathon countdown - 7 weeks to go

Ok, so I did admit right at the start that declaring the intention of providing a weekly update had the potential to be a petard from which I could hoist myself - I'm nothing if not prophetic

It turns out that my ten day trip to the US was more time and thought-consuming than first expected, meaning I had little opportunity to remember to update the blog - sorry about that. So, what has gone on in the three weeks since the last update?

Well, I had an absolute blast golfing with Herb, Courtney & Matt at Broad Run GC a couple of weeks ago. I even played some respectable golf too, which was a bonus (I did eight hours travelling that day, so at least it was worthwhile).

I didn't get out to play over the long Easter weekend but I have a round scheduled for Saturday so we'll see if I can repeat some of the better things from Broad Run (the three doubles & triple not being high on that list). Oh yes, I'm also planning to play Pebble Beach on the 11 May, which isn't a bad place to have a hit.

We have made some baby steps on the sponsorship front, with the first snivelling emails and social posts going up in my (new) workplace - I waited a polite couple of months before getting out the begging bowl - and I am extremely grateful to those folks, in the UK and abroad, who have dipped into their pockets to support our absurd adventure. As I've said (many times) before, our fundraising page is www.bmycharity.com/golfathon - if you are in a position to assist us towards our financial goal, anything you can provide would be gratefully accepted.

Our practice day, diarised for 18 May, has the small spanner in the works that Ash can't actually make that date. Not an ideal situation but, as time is ticking on towards kick-off, I think we have little choice but to press on with the 18th. I look forward to taking plenty of pics and posting them here and on Twitter.

So there we are - a bit of progress but, with a catch up call scheduled for next week, I am confident of bringing more definitive developments to the next update.

I am the Part-Time Golfer

Friday, 4 April 2014

Weekly Golfathon countdown - 10 weeks to go

Whilst (yet again) my sticks have remained enclosed in the shed, destined not to see the sunshine, we do now seem to have taken a step forward as a group.

Something that has been debated since this ridiculous idea was first mooted, was a practice day - a chance to get together as a whole group, play 36 or 54 holes (actually, the original idea was to have a 72 hole practice day - ha!) and get a feel for how we might be able to get through the full 24hr challenge.

It now looks very much like we have a consensus about a suitable date - 18th May - and we are currently debating whether, feasibly or financially, we play 36 or 54 holes that day. In terms of a venue, it looks like Richings Park, nr Slough is going to come out on top. This is almost exactly halfway between the two golfathon venues, plus Ash is a member so we've got a route in to discuss our 'unique' requirements. Good news.

So, what about preparation on a more personal level? Well, I mentioned last week of the plan to play Broad Run GC, in deepest Pennsylvania, next weekend - I am glad to report, the tee time has been secured, my travel has been meticulously planned out and I am very much looking forward to meeting Herb, Courtney & Matt and having some fun around what looks to be an extremely interesting golf course.

What comes after that? What is next on the agenda? Well, there is a (very) tentative idea to get out at some point over the Easter weekend - I then have the pleasure of another trip to the US to lool forward to and, naturally, the weapons are coming with me.

The mid-May trip is taking me to San Francisco, via LA, so it seemed rude not to take the opportunity to make my way up the Pacific coast via Monterey, with the aim of getting on to Pebble Beach. Granted, the green fee is biblically expensive, and I can only call for a tee time the day before, but the chance is too good not to try.

After that trip, we have the practice day and then I'm going to make the annual pilgrimage to Southport, that bastion of cultural excellence, to play Royal Birkdale - I absolutely love that course, despite the usual lack of reciprocity, and really look forward to the trip.

Once the Birkdale jaunt is done, it's only a fortnight until we're on for the golfathon - time sure does fly when you are having fun

I am the Part-Time Golfer

Friday, 28 March 2014

Weekly Golfathon countdown - 11 weeks to go

Another week zooms by and on what do I have to report about our challenge since the last update?

Well, the big news is that I finally played some golf - I shoehorned 9 holes in last Saturday at Mount Pleasant GC, nr Hitchin with a couple of mates. I'd not played the course before although, having previously followed a chap on Twitter, @novice2scratch, who played his golf there, I was familiar with the place.

Considering I hadn't touched the clubs for the requisite 5-6 weeks, and I was taking the whim-bought driver out for the first time, I was somewhat uncertain about what would transpire. Any lingering doubts were soon banished when my opening 9-iron floated majestically - well, found its way - towards the flag, coming to rest pin-high about ten feet away. Game on.

In a display of ball-striking which will surely generate overconfidence for my next round, with Herb, Courtney & Matt at Broad Run GC, Pennsylvania, I managed to get round +3, the sinking of a 20ft fast downhill putt on #6 (admittedly to salvage a double) a particular high.

I also took some new golf shoes out for the day - having been loyal to Nike for as long as I can remember (having had the same two pairs for nigh on 8 years), I felt this golfathon was an ideal reason to invest in some new footwear. Puma are the brand of choice and the black Spark Sports performed very well - extremely comfortable and gave a good, solid foundation for a swing. I also have a white pair of Super Cell Fusions which, I think, will be the ones to use for our challenge. Yes, I know - fascinating.

Next job for the team as a whole is agreeing a date for us to get together and practice our 'speed golf' - we're thinking it would be worth playing 36, or even 54, holes over the day to go someway towards understanding what we've agreed to take on. Hopefully this date & venue will be confirmed before the next update.

Sponsorship is also high on the agenda. We've made a (small) start - thank you very much to those people who have donated - but we've a long way to go. If anyone (who is still) reading this is moved to support us financially, please visit www.bmycharity.com/golfathon to pledge your donation - anything you can spare towards our target is gratefully received!

Onwards & upwards, then - 9 days until I'm off to the US on business, concluding with my day of golf next Saturday. Fingers crossed Virgin Atlantic look after my clubs!

I am the Part-Time Golfer

Friday, 21 March 2014

Weekly Golfathon countdown - 12 weeks to go

A very short update to deliver this week.

Still no practice completed yet, although I am road-testing the new driver & shoes tomorrow for a few holes.

The team were due to have a catch up call yesterday but, due to work commitments, we had to put it back - hopefully more to report next week.

Fitness levels, personally speaking, remain dreadful.

Ho hum

I am the Part-Time Golfer

Friday, 14 March 2014

Weekly Golfathon countdown - 13 weeks to go

Another week slips by & still no practice completed. This is not an ideal situation. What I haven't yet determined is whether ny concern about the lack of practice is based purely on my desire to be physically able to play for a full 24hrs, or my competitive desire to play well.

Since the last update, a few bits & pieces have progressed, upon which shall now elaborate.

The welcome addition of the second Sussex team has brought both the prospect of additional corporate sponsorship and the provision of Ballantine's branded goodies (jacket, golf shirt & umbrella - well, it will be June!) - thank you very much to everyone involved at Pernod Ricard for their generosity

The Guinness World Record process has also been kicked off, with acknowledgement received of our application for a new, uncharted category of stupidity...sorry, world record setting. This application can take a few weeks to process and I hope that a) it gets accepted, b) it's a processed before we complete the challenge and c) there can be someone there to witness & verify our success.

The next task (aside from agreeing on practice dates) is to ramp up the sponsorship effort - suitably begging letters & emails are being drafted to send to family, friends, work colleagues, casual acquaintances and even complete strangers, as we push towards our fundraising target

As I've mentioned before (and will keep on mentioning), if you feel moved to support our crazy venture and would like to sponsor us to help raise money for the On Course Foundation, please visit www.bmycharity.com/golfathon - anything you can spare is gratefully received & makes a big difference!


I am the Part-Time Golfer