“This might be the most crazy thing we have ever done.”
On June 21st – the longest day of 2017 – four Youth on Course supporters pulled off the unthinkable: playing four top-100 courses in four time zones in one day.
Racing the Sun was originally just a crazy idea for a golf experience that would create exposure for the national expansion of Youth on Course and generate support for more than 20,000 members nationwide. But then it actually happened.
“When we first came up with this event as a way to raise awareness about Youth on Course, the very idea seemed inconceivable,” said Youth on Course Executive Director Adam Heieck.
A team of four youth on Course donors pushed themselves physically and mentally playing 72 of the most beautiful holes in the country while racing the clock before sunset.
The adventure started symbolically in Louisville, Kentucky – where just days before, Youth on Course began subsidizing the first $5 rounds of golf for youth in partnership with The Golf House Kentucky.
With a wake up call at 4:30 am EST – the team began one of the longest days of their lives. They teed off at 5:50 a.m. EST at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville before the sun was up. The esteemed major championship venue proved the perfect backdrop for the opening venue and motivated the players as they head to the tee. In order to complete all 72 holes before sunset, the group was scheduled to play each hole in around 8 minutes. Unused to the fast pace, the team finished the first round about 25 minutes behind schedule before racing off to the airport to the next destination.
The group found their stride at Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson, Kansas – where they teed off at 10:25 am CST for the second 18. The Kansas City region was added as a Youth on Course partner in 2016 and Kansas City Golf Association Executive Director Doug Habel greeted the group on the first tee and handed them a Tom Watson autographed Prairie Dunes yardage guide.
“We’re really excited in Kansas City to be involved in a small way with such a great event,” said Habel. “Hundreds of kids in Kansas City who never considered golf to be an option are now getting hooked on the game through Youth on Course and courses are filling their unused tee times. It’s been a win-win for the golf community here in KC.”
Despite the creeping humidity, the team pushed hard, but was still 30 minutes behind pace coming down 18. As the team was loading the van at Prairie Dunes, the pilots received word that the runway in Holyoke, Colorado would be too hot to land the plane for round three at Ballyneal. The crew quickly came up with a new plan, but one that would cost the team an extra 30 minutes on the ground.
The pilots diverted the plane to Wray airport, where the team unloaded as quickly as possible to try and make up time. Ballyneal is a sprawling and desolate layout with a long and winding dirt road leading to the clubhouse. The team was growing fatigued and already hot even in the air conditioned van. Their muscles were starting to get stiff from all the walking and then sitting – but they renewed their excitement as they pulled up to the beautiful clubhouse at Ballyneal. The toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches waiting with the caddies on the first tee also helped inspired them to pick up the pace once again.
The team scrambled but somehow finished at Ballyneal in only two hours and 20 minutes but given the new airport, were now more than an hour behind schedule. Tired, extremely hot, and with the threat of sunset looming and a longer flight time to their next destination, the prospect of not finishing the mission began to enter their minds. But the pilots, now fully engrossed in the mission “put the hammer down” – rushing the team into North Las Vegas, somehow making up about 30 minutes in the air before the final round.
The final round was at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, Nevada where 18 gorgeous holes and a heat advisory loomed. Shadow Creek is an oasis among the never-ending traffic and lights of Las Vegas and the staff truly rolled out the red carpet for the team. Due to the 112 degree heat, Shadow Creek strongly advised carts with caddies to avoid serious health risks.
The team tee’d off at 6:05pm PST with the sun was scheduled to set at 8:01. The team kicked it into high gear. Starting the back nine with a mere hour of daylight, they proceeded to play the next five holes on a six-minute pace.
On 18, the glow from the sun all but gone, the players were greeted on the tee with champagne, and the last putt dropped at 8:25 pm without a second left of twilight. The team had powered through sore muscles, bad backs, and even a bloody lip, but they had finished the mission.
“The dedication to finishing by the participants was truly admirable, there was no way they weren’t going to finish,” said Heieck.
The event raised $200,000 for Youth on Course in a single day and captured the attention of The Golf Channel’s Morning Drive, Forbes.com, and The Golf Wire.
“The funds we raised will help tremendously in giving kids across the country access to golf and the numerous benefits that come with playing.”