Sunday 22 July 2018

Meet the golfer who ran 42 miles to play over 200 holes in 12 hours...with the same ball

Michael Verney

He stood on the 18th green, bowed but not beaten. A unique attempt to break the Guinness World Record for most golf holes played on foot in 12 hours had narrowly failed by just five holes but Bobby King vowed to be back.

As record-breaking feats go, it's one of the most physically demanding tasks you could ever wish to dedicate half a day to. But preparation involved a lot more than turning up on the day.

The 6ft 8in PGA professional dedicated six months to transforming his 18st frame, cutting more than two stone through rigorous cardio, for the marathon challenge in Birr golf course, where he is head pro, in a bid to beat the previous record of 221 holes.

From seven in the morning to seven at night he left blood, sweat and every ounce of energy on the demanding Midlands course last week covering 42 miles, the equivalent of travelling from Birr to Mullingar, to play 12 full rounds of golf, 216 holes in total.

Not exactly your standard Monday and it left him physically and emotionally devastated, "Shattered wouldn't even describe how I felt, you couldn't print the words I'd use, you'd run out of asterisks," King joked.

"I still haven't recovered yet but I certainly don't have any regrets about it. I haven't slept or eaten properly since, my body is gone into shock at this stage. The body was put under a little more pressure than it's used to."

Probably the understatement of the year. And did I mention it was all done with the same club? A trusty seven iron. But he admits he felt more like Forrest Gump than Roy McAvoy from Tin Cup. If that wasn't enough he managed to play with the same ball the whole time.

For recreational players, to play one hole with the same ball is an achievement, 216 without going into the bag for reserves defies all logic. And all this while trying to play 18 holes in an less than hour, every hour for 12 hours, and staying level par through 15 in his first round.

"I wanted to go into Paddy Power and back myself not to lose a ball. The only way I would have lost one would have been if I got to the stage where I was so fatigued that I'd shank it. I'd no shanks and was pleasantly surprised with my ball striking considering," King says.


"In order to break the record and give myself a little bit of time I needed to do 55 minutes per round. My dad (Martin) was keeping time on all the rounds. First round was 49 minutes, second 49, third 52, fourth 52, fifth 53, sixth 56. And then I just hit a wall around the seventh or eight.

"It took me a bit more than an hour after that. I knew I had to pick it up and actually got back to 55 minutes for two rounds but by that stage my legs had started to seize up. It was new territory and I had no feeling left. I was driving on pure adrenaline and then pure ignorance after that."

For most people, golf is played at a leisurely pace. It's a relaxing pursuit and rounds can take excess of four hours to complete. Attempting to break the record on behalf of Down Syndrome Centre, the 28-year-old from Roscrea planned to obliterate that time, 12 times over.

He ran a marathon and a half, all the while trying to control his heart-rate. "I'd hit the tee shot, run after the tee shot. Hit the second shot, run after the second shot and then hit the third shot, which was never too far way from the green. Then I'd start walking.

"I'd have my breath back by the time I got to the green. Then I'd walk to the next tee box and have my breath back by the time I was running again. As long as I was running at least half of every hole I was going to be okay for time."

The mass of rain which fell in the days previous didn't help his task as he was "running uphill to stop slipping and then tippy-toeing downhill to stop falling" but buoyed by a huge local following he almost overcame the crazy odds before him.

Better known as a successful DJ than a golf pro, King came agonisingly close and it has spurred him rather than deterred him. With a GoPro attached to his head as video evidence, he thinks a change of venue to his home course in Roscrea could work the oracle.

"I definitely want to try it again," he said. "Because I've put in all the effort and prepped my body and my diet, it would be an absolute waste to wait until next year. If I went back to my normal schedule I'd be back at 18 stone again.

"As soon as I can walk I'll be going for a spin around Roscrea and in July or August, with flat ground underfoot, I think I could hammer the record. Hopefully will next time I will."

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