2015 World Speedgolf Championships
I recently returned from the 2015 World Professional Speedgolf Championships where I placed 20th, matching my result from 2014. The event was a 36-hole competition at the Glen Club outside Chicago, IL. I shot 86 in 54 minutes on day 1, and 91 in 58 minutes on day 2, for a total score of 289 and a 20th placing in the pro division. The winner Rob Hogan of Ireland shot 243 (83-42;78-40) and earned $11,550 from the total purse of $40,000.
It was not a great performance as I struggled to keep my swing under control while running full speed. My highlight was the second nine on day 1 when I shot 38, including two under for the final five holes. It tied the best score of the day for the back nine among all pros. If you’re good at addition you’ll realize that I shot 48 on the front nine that day with four lost balls. Everyone struggled in the 22mph wind, but gee I guess my ball ignored the wind on the back nine…
Speedgolf revolutionizes the traditional sport by introducing the element of speed, endurance, quick reaction, and shot creativity into the slowest-paced of all sports. In Speedgolf, your score is comprised of the number of minutes spent on the course plus the number of strokes taken (similar to the winter olympic sport of biathlon – shooting and xc skiing).
- To get a sense of the sport, check out this high speed 4 min video of world record holder Christopher Smith going 4-under in 53 min at Bandon Dunes
- You can read this article from world champion Christopher Smith about how to implement the zen concepts of Speed Golf without having to run breakneck around the course.
My first exposure to Speedgolf was when Olympic middle distance runner and recreational golfer Steve Scott set a Guinness World Record for playing a round of golf in 27 minutes, shooting 103 back in the early 80s. In 1985, my mother bet me $50 that I couldn’t finish 9 holes in under 30 minutes. I finished the nine in 17 minutes and change and was flabbergasted to notice that I played as good or better than normal golf when I was running full speed through the course–in the zone!
Years later, endurance sports publishing guru Bob Babbitt organized a circuit of Southern California tournaments where we raced thru the course, and had caddies in golf carts providing all of our clubs on demand. I placed 8th in the 1996 World Extreme Golf Championships in San Diego, shooting 80 in 40 minutes for a 120. The sport had Red Bull sponsorship and coverage on ESPN as an attempt to become the next cool extreme sport but it kind of fizzled out.
Forwarding to 2012 or so and a group based in Oregon (Speed Golf International) brought the sport back big time! Oh man this was exciting for me because I was just returning to golf in 2013 after a 10-year run dominating youth athletes while coaching them in soccer, basketball and track (then they grew up and I was forced into the stands to cheer). I read about and watched great athletes like Christopher Smith and Rob Hogan, and practiced hard for a full year to join the elite players at the 2014 championships in Bandon Dunes. Speedgolf is a great sport because it doesn’t take much time to play. I visit courses in the final hour before darkness when there are no other players out there, and zip around 9 holes in 30 or 45 minutes, then return home for dinner!
I’ve been golfing since age 4. My father, Dr. Walter Kearns, is the world’s greatest golfer over age 90 and has had an amazing competitive career spanning eight decades, including participating in the US Amateur and US Senior amateur. Check out his website and marvel at stuff like eleven hole-in-ones, including seven accomplished in a five-year span after turning 80! My brother Wally is a top amateur player and former California State Amateur champion in his low handicap flite. My nephew Zachary Kearns plays with Capo Valley High School and does trick shots. Cousin Chris Kearns was the Wisconsin State Junior Champion and regular par player. Brother Jeff Kearns had a hole-in-one on Thanksgiving, 2014, joining a populous Kearns hole-in-one club (Marie, Gail, Wally, Walter, Jeff, and numerous cousins) that I have yet to join.