By his own admission, Doug Kearsley gets a little obsessive at times.
So when the 60-year-old retired construction consultant took up golf several years ago, he dove quickly into the deep end, playing 103 rounds in 2009 and 108 last year.
And he recently rounded up “three other crazies” to join him in a golf marathon of sorts, in which they walked and played all four of Spokane’s city-owned golf courses in a single day.
Kearsley and his friend, Dennis McGuire, made a similar daylong trek in June 2010, and convinced Frank Gowdy and Tom Hawley to join them for another summer solstice adventure this year.
The four golfers met in the parking lot of Indian Canyon Golf Course at 3:15 a.m. on June 21, the longest day of the year, and drove to Esmeralda Golf Course, where – with the permission of head pro Rex Schultz – they sneaked through a hole in the fence and teed off a little before 4 a.m., using glow-in-the-dark golf balls.
“We ended up playing the first four holes with them,” Kearsley said of the glow balls, “and it showed in our scores. They just don’t go very far.”
Adding to the challenge of predawn golf was the fact that the flagsticks at Esmeralda has been pulled the night before, leaving Kearsley and his friends completely in the dark as to where the holes were positioned.
“When we chipped onto the first green, it was just guess and by golly,” Kearsley said. “Then we walked around until we found the hole, and after the first guys putted out, he left his ball in the hole so the rest of us could see the glow.
“It was pretty awesome.”
The sun came up at 4:51 and the rest of the round went off without a hitch,
Kearsley’s wife Patricia met the foursome in the parking lot after they had finished and handed out bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches and hot coffee.
From there the group went to The Creek at Qualchan and on to Downriver and Indian Canyon, where they finished their final round at 8:49 p.m., with Kearsley’s wife again waiting in the parking lot – this time with cold adult beverages.
“Everything was closed down in the clubhouse,” Kearsley said, “so we celebrated with a couple of beers my wife had brought us and headed home.”
The golfers kept meticulous records of the odyssey, during which they walked 26.2 miles – as measured by the pedometer Kearsley wore, took a combined total of 1,543 shots and finished 307 strokes over par, all while burning an estimated 5,744 calories during the 15 hours they were on a course.
“We figured as long as we walked over 26 miles, we could call it a marathon,” said Kearsley, who has named the event the Spokane Summer Solstice Golf Marathon. “And all three of the other guys have said they’re in again next year.”
When asked how the idea of such an extreme golf outing was hatched, Kearsley recalled taking his wife to the airport a couple of years ago so she could visit out-of-town relatives. After dropping her off, he decided to stop in at Qualchan and play a quick 18 holes.
“Then I got to thinking, ‘What the heck, I’m bachin’ it here for a while,’ so I got up the next morning and played the Canyon, figured my wife’s not around, and then went and played Downriver.”
And when he finished up there at about 4 p.m., he drove to Esmeralda and got in another 18 holes before nightfall.
“So I played all four courses back then in about a 28-hour period,” Kearsley said. “And I got this idea, you know, that I could do it all in one day if I started early enough.”
During last year’s inaugural event, Kearsley and McGuire, a high school teacher, slogged through heavy rains most of the day. This year, the weather – and the pros at the four courses – cooperated, letting the golfers finish more than a half hour ahead of their planned time of 9:35.
“I always tend to do things in excess,” said Kearsley, who in his younger days competed in triathlons, marathons and even an ultramarathon or two.
That seems like a bit of an understatement, considering he went out the day after this year’s golf marathon, on a Wednesday, and played in a senior tournament at MeadowWood, before driving up to Chewelah and playing 27 holes on Thursday and then playing another 18 at Indian Canyon on Friday – all while walking.
Kearsley, who can be reached at dougkearsley @hotmail.com, would like to grow his golf marathon by adding at least one additional foursome next year, but he stresses that the event is as much about walking as it is golf.
“If we could get the city courses all on board with this, I think we could do the marathon with several foursomes,” he said, adding that the logistics and time restraints, even on the longest day of the year, will limit the number of participants.
“There has to be more crazies like us out there.”