Monday, April 25, 2011

A Golf Marathon for a Great Cause

Regular readers of my site likely know the name Jim Colton quite well by now.

Jim is a friend of Now on the Tee, having maintained his own golf blog for a number of years while also developing his own golf course rating system and publishing the results on another site called Golf Blog 100. Jim upped the ante even further by writing a book about his golf addiction entitled One Divot at a Time...Diary of a Full-Fledged Golf Addict Volume I.

Jim is about the only person I know that loves golf as much as I do and he's dedicating his efforts this year to a greater cause. Please read the letter below, in Jim's own words:

Dear Friends,

Anybody who has ever been out to Ballyneal knows the caddies are a big part of the experience. Most are high school and college kids from the area. And "area" is defined loosely, because some come from up to two hours away just to earn a $75-$100 dollar loop and a chance to be an Evans Scholar. Over the years, seven Ballyneal caddies have earned scholarships at Colorado University through the Colorado Golf Association Eisenhower-Evans Scholarship Fund.

Since my first trip to Holyoke in 2008, I've had caddies that run the whole gamut - from caddies on their first loops to ones that who know every inch of the wild Ballyneal greens. Either way, every experience I've had there with the caddies has been a positive one. They are simply great kids - warm, down-to-earth, helpful and hard working - consistent with just about everybody else I've ever met in that region of the country.

Getting to know the caddies and building relationships with them over the years is one of the best parts of Ballyneal. Of course, it didn't take long for them to realize that I'm a golf-crazed maniac, and I get needled for it constantly. The caddies are constantly egging me on to play more keep chugging for 72 holes after just finishing my 54th, for example. Last year, two caddies, Nick Flaa and Gary Nelson, threw down the gauntlet and played 100 holes in a day. Their primary motivation was just to get under my skin. My gut reaction was to immediately go out and bring the record back to its rightful owner, but scheduling, conditioning and footwear issues forced me to postpone it until 2011. Now armed with three new pairs of True Linkswear shoes and about 25 less pounds of spare tire, I'm ready to take on the challenge and raise the bar even further. Six-full rounds -- 108 holes, is my number.

During the offseason, I started to make plans to use the marathon to raise money for the local Holyoke High School golf team and the CGA scholarship fund. To give back to the kids who had meant so much to me. But unfortunately, a much more pressing need became apparent recently. One of the caddies, Ben Cox, was seriously injured in a skiing accident in March. He suffered a broken femur and broken neck and is currently paralyzed from the chest down. But Ben is in great spirits all things considered and is ready to take on the long recovery process head-on. When I heard the news, I knew I had to switch the focus of the marathon. On Monday June 20th, I will be walking (at least) 108 holes of golf to raise money for Ben and his family as they begin to face this long recovery process.

If you've been out to Ballyneal and have enjoyed your time there, or have gotten any entertainment value out of this blog over the past five years, or you simply want to help, anything you can contribute on a lump-sum or per hole basis is greatly appreciated. You can e-mail me directly at and I will provide more details on how to contribute.

Also, if you want to take an active role in this fundraiser, I'm willing to host anybody who can raise $500 or more on their own to join me at Ballyneal on June 20th for what I'm calling the "half-marathon" -- 54 holes in one day. My only request is if you see a single lefty in an orange hat coming up on your group, please let him play through.


Update: Thanks to some very generous donations, we have a number of golf-related items to auction off to all those that donate $100 or $1/hole or more:

1. One foursome of golf at Ballyneal to closest guess on number of strokes over par for 108 holes
2. One foursome of golf at Ballyneal
3. One foursome of golf at Dismal River
4. One foursome of golf at The Kingsley Club
5. One pair of TRUE Tours
6. One pair of TRUE Stealths
7. One threesome of golf and lunch at Hudson National
What started simply as one man's plan to regain a record at Ballyneal has turned into something much greater.

If you're a walking golfer who has ever had the pleasure of playing with a caddy, I'm sure you'll agree that this is a truly great cause. If you have the means to contribute anything to Jim's effort, whether it's a lump sum or a dollar-per-hole pledge, please get in touch with him at the email address listed above. Every single dollar goes directly to Ben to help pay for his medical bills.

That's a cause I can get behind. Best of luck, my friend and you can count on my support.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Writer's Malaise

I really don't know what it is with this weather but it's really starting to bring me down.

Residents of the Niagara Region have been fortunate enough over the past couple of years to be playing golf in the middle of March but old lady Winter really dug in her heels in 2011. Our course didn't open until April 7th, about three weeks later than last year and even then, chances to play have been few and far between because of the adverse conditions.

In fact, only three of us were willing to brave significant winds, a soaking wet course and unseasonably cold temperatures on Sunday in order to get a game in. We got everything during the round: wind, rain, sun, hail and even a brief snow flurry.

I *needed* that round of golf, weather be damned! I'm sure many of you out there know what I mean.

I also think this weather is having an adverse effect on my writing, specifically with regard to my blog updates or more appropriately, the lack thereof.

It's not like I don't have things to write about - quite the contrary in fact! Here is a sampling of what you might see here in the days and weeks to come:

- a 2011 Masters recap
- review of the brand new Golf Digest Top 100 Courses rankings for 2011
- review of the new GolfWeek Best Canadian Courses rankings, a first for that publication
- a post about friend of Now on the Tee, Jim Colton and his fundraising efforts for a paralyzed Ballyneal caddy
- a full report on my trip to the spectacular Bandon Dunes resort
- separate reviews of all four courses at Bandon

That's a lot of topics and I'll have to get out of this writing funk pretty quickly if I want to get everything covered in a timely fashion. While I don't want to offer any promises, I hope to provide plenty of reading material over the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Buzz Continues to Build for Cabot Links

I'm finally back at my keyboard after a great little five day trip to Bandon, Oregon where I was able to experience the much-heralded Bandon Dunes Golf Resort for the first time.

And what an experience that was, something that I'll be documenting throughout the month of April here on this blog, with a detailed trip recap and individual reviews for all four golf courses at the resort. It's a remarkable place and I can't wait to talk about it further.

However, I'm writing today about another place that Bandon developer Mike Keiser is involved with and it is arguably the most anticipated golf course opening in Canada in many years.

I'm talking about Cabot Links, a Rod Whitman design which is being touted as Canada's first true links course.

Cabot Links sits hard by the sea on Cape Breton Island in the town of Inverness, Nova Scotia. The landscape looks truly incredible in photographs and is even more apparent in the brilliantly-conceived movie trailer put out by the club the other day.

This two-plus minute clip (click on the link above) was directed by Michael Robin, an Emmy-Award winning director/producer (L.A. Law, The Closer, Nip/Tuck) and features legendary Canadian actor Donald Sutherland as the narrator. I don't know if I've ever seen something like this done to build anticipation for a golf course opening but it's quite ingenious.

Similar to Mr. Keiser's recent soft-opening at Old Macdonald, Cabot Links will have ten holes ready for play on July 1, 2011 in a preview loop, with the full course scheduled to open in the spring of 2012. Like the courses at Bandon, Cabot Links will be walking-only and feature a robust caddy program.

I won't be able to get out to Cabot this year but I hope to make plans to visit next year when the full course is open for play. There is already talk that a second course could be on the way and if that ever materializes, you could make a case for Cape Breton Island being "Bandon East", especially when you factor in the fact that Highlands Links, one of our country's finest courses, is only about two hours away.

My congratulations go out to Ben Cowan-Dewar, friend of Now on the Tee and the main man behind Cabot Links. Cowan-Dewar runs a golf travel company (Golf Travel Impresarios) and is partners with Ran Morrissett in the great golf architecture website Golf Club Atlas. It took a big leap of faith to get Cabot Links off the ground, as he moved his entire family to Inverness well before the first shovel touched dirt.

It looks like we'll all be winners in the end, as all signs point to Cabot Links being the next great golf destination in Canada.