Dr. Stan Jones said he built his nine-hole golf course in Haines because, “When you sit on the porch, you die.”
In the interest of not expiring on the veranda, 11 local golfers took on the “Iron Eagle,” a straight-handicapped tournament requiring competitors to walk 72 holes in one day. That’s a 16-mile hike from tees to green, so with distances between holes and walking around looking for your ball in the rough, it’s probably 20 miles or more.
Most players carried their clubs. I used a pull cart and can report I was challenged physically, psychologically, and matrimonially. (My wife thought I should be doing yard work.) That was true, but once in a while you have to do something crazy to remind yourself you aren’t just sitting on the porch.
The tournament idea was born of Karl Heinz, bank president in Haines. He suggested it and the greenskeepers and couse managers who live in a trailer in the parking lot and play every night put it on.
Competitors were what you would expect – the ex-high school athletes who now have nothing better to do. One participant though was Dan Harrington, 63, who wasn’t even sore the next day. He said, “We need more people tough enough to play. If the banker can do it, how hard can it be?”
Coyotes were spotted on the driving range at 7:45 a.m., but ran off after the shotgun start. For me, the pain started after about 36 holes, but it shifted around, from my toes to my back to the back of my legs. At times my fingers would feel like they were getting blisters, but fortunately I didn’t hurt all over until the day after.
As we walked down one hole discussing the absurdity of walking 72 holes in a day, one player, I think it was Harrington, told us of the Civil War soldiers who marched 25 miles at night to do battle the next day, going two or three days without food. “Now those guys were tough,” he said.
Interestingly – because to me it says a good golfer will beat the handicappers over time – scratch golfers took first and second place. Course manager Andrew Rex won with scores of 72,70,74,68. Basketball star and soon to be UAA preferred walk-on Tyler Swinton might consider golf if hoops doesn’t pay off. He came in second, shooting 71,76,71, 73.
Some players finished just after dark, about 10 p.m., just as the moose were hitting the driving range. Kudos to Stan Jones for showing us the way off the porch.