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Marathon men: Blade writers play tourney in a day

07/16/2017, 12:03am EDT
By By DAVID BRIGGS and KYLE ROWLAND BLADE SPORTS WRITERS

It was a marathon but not a classic as pair did 72 holes in 15 hours


Blade sports writer Kyle Rowland, left, approaches his ball as sports columnist David Briggs grabs the flag during a 72-hole marathon of golf ahead of the Marathon Classic at Highland Meadows. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH

The law of diminishing returns is Econ 101. 

You know, if one scoop of ice cream is good and a pint is better, a gallon just makes you sick. 

Same thing on the links. “Don’t play too much golf,” British legend Harry Vardon once said. “Two rounds a day are plenty.”

But, hey, what do the experts know? 

MARATHON CLASSIC: Everything you need to know for the LPGA tournament at BCSN.tv/MarathonClassic

Blade sports columnist David Briggs and golf writer Kyle Rowland decided last week to put the theory to the test. 

VIDEO: David Briggs, Kyle Rowland golf Marathon Classic in one day

In the spirit of the Marathon Classic — which begins Thursday at Highland Meadows Golf Club — they set out against their better judgment to complete the ultra golf marathon. 

The idea was to walk and play the equivalent of the entire four-day, four-round tournament — indeed nearly a 26.2-mile marathon — in one dawn-to-darkness race against sanity. 

After storms postponed the mission Monday, the fun began bright and early Tuesday at Highland Meadows. Here’s the blow-by-blow account of the very first-world journey. 

4:32 a.m: My alarm startles me out of a deep sleep. I’m immediately filled with dread about having to wake up so early when I know it will be a long, taxing day. Minutes later, though, I’m wide awake and filled with anticipation for the impending event. — K.R.

5:44 a.m: Raring to go, we check in at the pro shop, inquire about the course record, and wait for the green on No. 1 to clear to bomb away.

Then, I take off my cape and ... stop dreaming.

It is 26 minutes until sunrise, and all through the 160-acre course, the only creatures stirring are the abundant deer. 

Alone in the dim of dawn, I let rip my opening drive on the par-4, 347-yard opener and listen.

The day starts out with a bang.

My snap hook clangs off the metal pole of one of the hospitality tents along the fairway. We are off! — D.B.

5:44 a.m. And the first tee shot is struck, by yours truly. There is just enough light illuminating the sky to see the ball, though it’s still difficult to track the landing area. Nonetheless, as the day is in its infancy, adrenaline is running through our veins as we ponder the hours ahead of us. — K.R.

6:05 a.m: As the more than two dozen members of the Highland Meadows grounds crew begin to fan out across the course, superintendent Greg Pattinson receives a code red report of intruders. 

“Uh, there are two dudes out on No. 12,” a staffer tells Pattinson, referring to what tournament fans know as No. 3. (The nines are flipped for the Marathon Classic.)

The crew has the course looking and playing as fantastic as ever, and the last thing they need are two gate jumpers the week before the tournament. 

But Pattinson assures we are all right, though not necessarily in the head. We forge onward. — D.B.

6:07 a.m: Our confidence is soaring — the sun is rising, we’re making solid contact, and no one else will be on the course for nearly two hours. Then Pattinson broadsides us. 

“You probably won’t be able to finish,” he tells us, which is startling because, weather permitting, we believe there’s no doubt we can finish. Pattinson alerts us to league play that could stall our momentum. We hunker down with the possibility of slow play creeping into our minds. — K.R.

6:36 a.m: We arrive at the tee box of the par-3 sixth hole. It’s playing 151 yards with the pin in the relative center of the green. I strike a perfect 7-iron to about five feet of the hole and convert the birdie putt. I’m 1-over thru six holes as visions of making the cut start dancing in my mind. — K.R.

7:03 a.m: The first nine holes are completed in just under 80 minutes. Because we arrived at the course so early, we aren’t able to get pull carts, so we carry our bags on the opening nine. Simulating the tournament as best we can is the goal, which is why we don’t want to carry our clubs — well, and the fact that we’re lazy. The pull carts are welcomed with open arms. — K.R.

7:31 a.m: That course record, by the way? It belongs to fan favorite Paula Creamer, who opened with an 11-under 60 on her way to the tournament title here in 2008. 

With a par, I match the all-time mark. 

Then we head to 13. — D.B.

8:06 a.m: In just 2 hours, 22 minutes, I’ve walked 10,000 steps and 4.65 miles, according to my Fitbit. And all in 16 holes’ work. — K.R.

8:16 a.m: To borrow the old line, I like to play in the low 70s. If it gets any hotter, I won’t play. But today is the exception. With no local saunas taking tee times, we settle for the next best thing: 72 holes in the kind of oil-thick air that will later push the heat index into the 90s. 

Already, we are human sweat buckets. By day’s end, I will drink 31 16.9-ounce water bottles — about four gallons — two Diet Cokes, and a Gatorade. Though an LPGA rules official is here surveying the course, not once will I, uh, request relief. — D.B. 

8:26 a.m: Eighteen holes are in the books. It only takes 2:42. Spirits are high. Despite the looming threat of afternoon thunderstorms, 54 more holes seem like a certainty. Oh, and I’m happy about the solid 5-over 76. — K.R.

8:27 a.m: My scores, meanwhile, are neither safe for work nor appropriate for a family newspaper. (Fine, I lost count.) But this 20 or so handicapper is feeling good. 

This is going to be a piece of cake! — D.B.

9:39 a.m: This is awful!

Turns out, wearing old golf shoes to walk the equivalent of Toledo to Bowling Green was a bad idea. With my feet blistering, it is time for a car run. I swap out my shoes and soaked socks — the bloodied left one of which appears straight out of the Curt Schilling collection — for new sneakers. We are back. — D.B. 

9:54 a.m: Breakfast food is my favorite — eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns. It can’t be beaten. Unfortunately, I rarely eat breakfast, opting instead for lunch as my first meal. Despite waking in darkness, my first morsel of food comes at 9:54 after David retrieves some peanut butter candy bars and peanut butter energy balls, one of my wife’s top-secret recipes. The snack is akin to Popeye’s spinach. We’re ready for more golf. — K.R.

10:20: At last, we catch up to the league on No. 13. And never have I been so content to wait, lugging my 235-pound, soon-to-be golf corpse to the bench.

I’ve worked factory shifts, played marathon days of basketball, and still run three miles a couple days a week. But it will be this day of golf — freaking golf! — that lends my greatest admiration and appreciation yet for those who work on their feet all day. — D.B. 

10:53 a.m: Halfway houses are one of my favorite features of golf courses. The one here is located between the seventh and 16th tees. Just shy of 36 holes, we scarf down hot dogs, which may as well been a medium-rare steak from Mancy’s. That’s how good it tastes. — K.R.

11:51 a.m: The first 36 holes are complete in six hours, six minutes. It’s apparent now that another 36 holes is a foregone conclusion. Walking up the 18th hole, which doubles as our 36th, Marathon Classic tournament director Judd Silverman and director of marketing Jim Decker greet us with pleasantries and skepticism about our day-long itinerary. — K.R.

11:58 a.m: The wolf pack doubles in size as we join club regulars Bill Roemer and Arnie Fretz to start the third round. 

Bill is a longtime first-tee announcer for the Marathon Classic. As always, the tournament this week will include some formidable names, including first-year entrant Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong of Thailand. But on this mucky day, the looming pronunciations are the one thing he is not sweating. 

“If you break it down by phonetics,” he said, “it shouldn’t be that bad.” — D.B.

1:57 p.m: After 45 holes — the final 20 of which every step hurts — I sit down for the first time to change out of my golf shoes and into tennis shoes and a new pair of socks. My worst fears are realized when I glance down at my feet — blisters everywhere. It seems that wet socks and golf shoes are a bad combination. However, it’s no time to wallow in self-pity. There are 27 more holes to play. — K.R.

2:50 p.m: The skies open. And, for good measure, the sun stays out through the five-minute downpour. 

If ever the golf gods were trying to tell us, “Go home, you’re drunk,” this is that time. — D.B. 

3:43 p.m: On the fairway a couple holes earlier, a ball comes bouncing past us well over 300 yards beyond the tee. 

As it happens, it was the missile drive of Justin Schnebelen, a rising senior at St. Francis. 

A good guy and a heck of a linksman — he is a three-time honoree on the All-Three Rivers Athletic Conference team — Justin joins for the final two holes of our third round. He generally puts us to shame. But if it makes us feel any better — and it does — he informs he once played 45 holes in a day and his game faded down the home stretch. 

Best of luck to Justin this season. — D.B. 

4:14 p.m: Only 18 holes remain, but before we ruin a perfectly good walk, a sit-down meal is on the docket. Roast beef au jus and fries never tasted so good. And I realize how underrated a chair and air conditioning can be. — K.R.

5:05 p.m: Practice makes perfect? Don’t believe it, kids. By now, my feet and knees feel creakier than a bridge made of termites, and I am factoring in a one-club fatigue. I use a 7- iron instead of an 8, a cannon instead of a driver, and so on. 

Now, again, you will note every other world problem — say, the difficulty in opening a bag of chips because your fingers are greasy from the first bag — rates of greater import. But the struggle is real. 

The good news is we have more local knowledge to shepherd us through the treacherous final leg. For the front nine of the last round, we tag along with Matt Arehart, a 32-year-old product development manager at a technology company whose fun energy is contagious. 

Like everyone else who learns of our featherbrained quest, he asks, “Why?” But for a different reason.  

“You’re doing this on Amazon Prime Day!?” he said, referring to the online sales event that CNBC estimated cost employers $10 billion in lost productivity. 

Same as myself, a long-time golf fan who began regularly playing two summers ago, Matt only picked up the game three years ago. The difference is he has proven a quicker study. With some pointers from his wife, Angela, a former St. Ursula standout who played collegiately in Florida, he hopes to routinely crack the 80s this summer. 

“How come you’re not that good?” Kyle asks me. — D.B. 

7:01 p.m.: As we tee off for the final nine, Silverman texts, “You guys are insane!! How about a golf cart for the final 9?” Riding, however, is not part of the equation. K.R.

8:39 p.m: On our 71st hole, I find myself 151 yards from the hole. Battling severe blisters and fatigue, I barely have enough energy to swing. I take out my 5-wood, which is usually reserved for shots from 220 yards away, and take what’s referred to in golf parlance as an “old-man swing,” striking the ball crisply. It sails high into the air, lands on the green, and rolls just off the back. It gives me hope that good shots will consume rounds into my 70s. — K.R.

8:53 p.m: Similar to the dreaded incline late in the Boston Marathon (not really), Heartbreak Hill of this golf marathon is the slope leading up to the 18th green.

The clubhouse beckons like a lighthouse in the gloaming distance. — D.B.

8:59 p.m: There are far more strenuous activities you can take part in, but walking 72 holes of golf in one day is no joke. Finally, after 15 hours, 15 minutes, I strike my 342nd shot and finish the day that almost literally was a marathon. We each walk more than 25 miles and 55,000 steps. 

I sit down twice the entire day. Two hundred twenty-four ounces of water eliminate the possibility of dehydration. Exhaustion and blisters are the worst part of the experience. Oh, and the continually rising scores. The opening round of 76 gives way to 89, 87, and 90 during the final 54 holes. K.R.

9 p.m: Bowed and bruised in body and spirit, we limp home. 

We did it! 

With that, a big thanks goes out to Highland Meadows and all the great people we met ... at least so far. I realize then I still have two last Wilson balls, the dimpled holdouts on a day that began with seven more of their friends. 

Who’s up for another round? — D.B. 

Contact Kyle Rowland at: krowland@theblade.com, 419-724-6110, or on Twitter @KyleRowlandContact David Briggs at: dbriggs@theblade.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.

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Blade sports writer Kyle Rowland, left, and columnist David Briggs play 72 holes of golf Tuesday at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH


Blade sports columnist David Briggs celebrates a shot. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH


Kyle Rowland hits a shot during the marathon of golf. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH

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Tag(s): Pro  Golf  David Briggs  Marathon Classic