The Ireland native covered Bandon’s Old Macdonald in less than 40 minutes and carded a round of 77
BANDON — Before he started play Sunday in the second Speedgolf World Championships, first-day leader Rob Hogan stood quietly on the first tee at Bandon Dunes and spent a minute or more with his arms folded, simply looking down the first fairway, alone with his thoughts.
“I felt calm, for some strange reason,” the 27-year-old professional golfer from Ireland said.
And he remained calm, even when he found trouble a couple of times, and he followed Saturday’s sensational round at Old Macdonald with a strong performance on the par-72 Bandon Dunes course — 79 in 41 minutes, 24 seconds -— to win the championship and the $15,000 prize that went with it.
“Just do the same as yesterday,” Hogan said Sunday of his pre-round thoughts. “My goal yesterday was to stay focused through every shot, and stay calm, regardless of what happens. Nothing went wrong yesterday; a couple of shaky moments today, but I managed to stay calm, so I was happy. You don’t always hit it as you would like to, you know?”
In speedgolf, a competitor’s score is the total of the strokes played and the elapsed time covering the 18-hole course. Saturday, Hogan had raced the par-71 Old Macdonald course in 39:31 while shooting 77 for a score of 116.31 to take an eight-point lead into Sunday’s final round.
Sunday, Hogan again posted the fastest time in the 24-player field, and his speedgolf score of 120.24 gave him a two-day total of 236.55 and a six-point victory over former Stanford golfer Eri Crum of Boise.
Speedgolf International executive director Tim Scott said that Hogan’s Old Mac round Saturday “was awesome. I don’t know how many tournaments I’ve played in over the years, 30 or 40, and that’s right up there for the best round ever. … It’s so difficult to score on that course, and then to run it in 39 minutes is just shocking.”
It gave Hogan a big lead, not that he tried to think about it much Saturday night. “A friend is over from Ireland,” he said. “We just went to dinner and watched a few comedy shows.”
Last year, Hogan was seventh in the world championships. That was the first time he tried one-handed putting, using a shorter putter and holding his golf bag with the other hand, to save valuable time on the greens. It cost him strokes then, but he stuck with it and putted well here this weekend; he’s also fitter than a year ago.
“I’m going the same speed, but it doesn’t take as much out of me as it did last year,” Hogan said. “And my golf has improved. … Speedgolf is good for your golf.”
Scott echoed that, noting that speedgolf, with golfers carrying only four or five clubs, forces players to be more creative inside 150 yards and around greens, “because you never have the right club.”
Crum, a collegiate teammate of Casey Martin and Tiger Woods, shot a one-over 73 Sunday while his wife, elite triathlete Erin Crum, ran the course alongside him. His elapsed time of 44:31 gave him the day’s best score, 117.31, and a two-day total of 242.34. Matt Dehlin of Portland, who shot 78 Sunday, was third overall with 250.06; defending champion Chris Walker shot 73 and finished fourth at 250.38.
Crum said he’d gotten away from golf while running with his wife and starting a business.
“It took speedgolf to get me back into it,” he said. “I never lost the passion for golf, and this was a good excuse to get back into it and try to get competitive again. … I’m going to start playing all these events. I love it.”
For Speedgolf International, this championship could prove a step forward in its efforts to grow the hybrid sport. For the first time, there was a live telecast on the Internet, and the participation of two elite track and field athletes, Bernard Lagat and Nick Willis, gave the sport broader exposure, as evidenced by the indefatigable reporter for RunnerSpace.com, who ran alongside Willis to shoot video on Saturday, and ran with Lagat and then Willis again on Sunday.
“It’s phenomenal, and it’s brought in a whole new crowd, the running crowd and the track crowd … ,” Scott said. “The sport is under the radar. We don’t have a big budget to get the word out. So this has really helped.”
Neither Willis, who ballooned from an 86 Saturday to 97 Sunday, nor Lagat, a left-handed golfer who improved from Saturday’s 119 to 110, played great golf here, but they were tremendous ambassadors for the event.
“I wasn’t hitting anything cleanly,” said Willis, who finished 13th. “It was quite embarrassing, actually. But it was still awesome to be out here. I thought yesterday was my worst end of how I would play, but today was. It makes me appreciate how good and consistent these real golfers are, not us weekend warriors.”
Both runners seem truly captivated by speedgolf.
“Nick used the word ‘I’m hooked,’” Lagat said. “I’m seconding that. He’s hooked, and I think I’m hooked.”