Geno Bonnalie finished his weeklong fundraising ordeal with the skin on his hands blistered and peeling, his right knee sore and uncooperative, and his younger sister tearfully begging him to give up his quest.
But the 27-year-old Lewiston resident insists the physical and mental anguish he endured while trying to top the Guinness World Records standards for the most holes of golf played (1,850) and most birdies recorded (250) in a single week was worth every ache, pain and sisterly protest.
“Absolutely it was,” Bonnalie said Friday, less than five days after shattering both records by completing 2,000 holes and posting 497 birdies at Lewiston Country Club beginning Monday, June 27 and ending Sunday. “I’m a little bummed out I didn’t play a few more hours on Sunday, but I was still pretty happy with how things turned out.”
Bonnalie, a Lewiston Country Club member with a minus-2 handicap, decided to challenge the Guiness record book in an attempt to raise money for the Cystinosis Research Foundation, which is devoted to finding a cure for the rare metabolic disease that afflicts one of his wife Holly’s cousins.
Despite a limited amount of advance publicity on the event, he still managed to secure almost $16,000 in pledges – mainly from family, friends and fellow country club members.
“I didn’t get as many donations from outside people I don’t know as I would have liked,” Bonnalie said, “but the country club members really stepped up, and I was still able to raise quite a bit of money for an organization that doesn’t get a lot of government funding.”
To raise that money, Bonnalie – playing alone in a motorized cart and given the OK to play through any group on the course – completed 111 18-hole rounds of golf and two additional holes to reach the even number of 2,000 (holes), which was 52 short of his original goal.
“It was painful,” he said. “By Sunday, my hands were in rough shape and almost numb. I was limping around the course and not playing very well, but at that point I was just trying to get the record.
“And once I got to 2,000, my sister was crying and told me, ‘Just quit! Don’t hurt yourself any more than you already have.’ ”
Bonnalie’s 24-year-old sister, Jade Allen, walked with him for five of the seven days of his record-setting effort, and served as one of the witnesses required by the people at Guinness to score, record and photograph the event to verify it for their records.
“I had to have two witnesses with me at all times, not only to keep score, but to write letters (to Guiness) afterward saying they has watched me do it,” Bonnalie said. “And I also had to send them picture evidence and any examples of media coverage I could provide.”
Bonnalie had initially planned to play 16 rounds of golf on each of the first six days of his venture and close with 18 rounds on the final day.
As it turned out, he felt so good on Monday that he played 18 rounds that day – which turned out to be a great decision, considering how physically taxing the next six would become.
“After that first day, every morning starting out was the absolute worst,” Bonnalie said. “And when I woke up on Thursday, I thought to myself, ‘There’s no way I can play today. My hands hurt so bad I can’t do it.’
“But I took a lot of ibuprofen and somehow made it through it.”
At one point, the pain in Bonnalie’s right knee became so severe he summoned a doctor to the course to examine it and learned that he was suffering from iliotibial band syndrome, an inflammation of the thick band of tissue that runs down the outside of the leg.
“I guess its pretty common in runners,” said Bonnalie, who decided to keep playing despite the distress he was experiencing.
Not surprisingly, Bonnalie did not pick up a golf club in the first few days following the successful completion of his record attempt. But he was planning to get back on the course Friday afternoon and then play in a two-man best-ball event in Orofino today.
“I still don’t have a lot of feeling in the pad of my left thumb, probably because that’s where the blisters were the worst,” he said.
“And I can still see little blood blisters under the skin all over my left hand.
“But I feel good enough to swing the club, and my knee is a lot better, so I’m anxious to see if I can compete again. I just need to take it easy and not go out and try to play another 300 holes.”
When asked if he might eventually try to better his Guinness records, Bonnalie said, “I don’t know right now, but I’m definitely glad I did what I did.
“I raised a lot of money for a good cause and actually had a lot of fun doing it, mainly because there was so much encouragement and support out there.”