This duffer's round of golf will continue for 12 hours

March 11, 2002|By Kevin Cowherd

FIVE WEEKS from now, a man named Chris Cain will step on a golf course at Penn State University and try to boldly go where no golfer has gone before.

In an astounding display of masochism, Cain will attempt to enter the Guinness Book of Records for the most golf holes played in 12 hours using a cart.

For the uninitiated, an average round of golf takes about four hours, after which most golfers want nothing so much as to sit in a quiet room with a fifth of Jim Beam to calm their jangled nerves.

But Cain is only 27, not yet beaten down by a lifetime of screaming snap-hooks, gouged 5-irons and two-foot putts that lip out.

Plus he's the head golf pro at Penn State, which means he actually brings some skill to the game, something the vast majority of golfers can't claim without inducing snickers.

Anyway, Cain's goal is to play 500 holes, which he says will cover almost 95 miles of course. It also means maintaining a rate of 84 seconds per hole.

This would shatter the record currently held by one Brennan F. Robertson, who played 476 holes in 12 hours in Sarasota, Fla., two years ago and then quietly checked into a mental hospital.

OK, that's not true. I mean, it might be true. But I have no hard evidence that Robertson became unhinged by his experience, except my own knowledge of how exasperating the game can be.

"I'm optimistic," Cain said over the phone the other day. "When I tell people 84 seconds a hole, they can't imagine it. ... But to do it, I'm gonna have to play well, too. It can't just be hitting and jumping in the cart."

What he's alluding to is that the Guinness people are sticklers for making sure certain guidelines are followed.

Cain will be playing on a specially laid-out five-hole course with two par-5s, two par-3s and one par-4, which he'll play over and over again.

But after that, the regular rules of golf will be followed.

The ball must be at rest before he takes another stroke, which means he can't pull a Happy Gilmore and play polo with a moving ball until it's in the cup.

And if he hits a ball into the rough or woods, he must look for it for at least five minutes before declaring a lost ball and hitting a replacement.

For that reason, Cain hopes to have lots of spotters on the course to track errant balls. But it definitely behooves him to hit the ball straight. There's no sense gripping it and ripping it if the ball ends up so far in the woods it skulls a wolverine.

"Speed is definitely a necessity, but accuracy is probably just as important," he said. "I don't want to take more than four shots a hole because [there] we're up to 2,000 strokes for 500 holes. That's a lot of swings for a body to endure."

Cain is calling this extravaganza the Robo-Pro Golf Marathon and hopes to raise money via pledges for an organization called The Second Mile that helps at-risk kids.

He says he got the idea for Robo-Pro from Doug Werth, general manager of the Penn State golf courses, who played 440 holes in 12 hours and held the Guinness record from 1993 until 1997.

"He told me he drank 220 cans of Gatorade and didn't go to the bathroom the whole time," Cain said with a chuckle. "He said he had blisters on blisters when he finished."

But when Cain asked Werth, "You think I can do this?" Werth didn't hesitate.

"Absolutely," he said.

So right now, Chris Cain is in serious training for his golf marathon, so much training that, as he says: "It's a good thing I'm a bachelor who has time to do this."

He's running up to 4.5 miles every other day, hitting up to 200 balls on the range on the days he doesn't run, and doing lots of stretching and yoga to stay limber.

He's also gone semi-nuts with his diet, giving up alcohol, reducing his red meat intake and drinking lots of protein shakes.

All of this has pared the body fat on his 160-pound frame to 8.5 percent, or about what your average greyhound carries.

Not long ago, as a tune-up, he played 200 holes in 4 hours and 50 minutes. On Wednesday, he'll attempt 300 holes, which he hopes to finish in 7 hours and 12 minutes.

If all that isn't enough to get the record, Chris Cain also has a "secret weapon" he can trot out: a souped-up golf cart. And get this: he'll be driven around by an assistant golf professional at Penn State who races stock cars as a hobby.

"We've tested a golf cart at 18 mph," Cain said, dropping his voice an octave or two. "That's about 6 mph more than a regular cart can go."

Evidently, though, there's nothing in the Guinness rules prohibiting turning your golf cart into a dragster.

Cain said he hopes to have a cart for the Robo-Pro gig that goes 22 mph, which would have him flying around the course like a New York cabbie. Twenty-two mph - you better put a rear spoiler on that baby.

Let's face it: the only way you get a regular cart up to 22 mph is if you launch it off a cliff.

Anyway, Chris Cain goes for the record starting at 7 a.m. on April 17. I plan to be there to see how he does.

If he can stand playing golf for 12 hours, I can stand to watch it for 12 hours.

Maybe.

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