Peter Williams: A year-long odyssey for charity

By Peter Williams

Surely the most remarkable endurance feat in New Zealand golf history ended yesterday at Paraparaumu when Ricky Bartlett finished his 419th round in the last 363 days.

He set out on August 1 last year to play every golf course in New Zealand. He reckons he's done it. There are 393 golf clubs affiliated to the national body, only a couple have two courses and some have none, but Bartlett has found and played a host of privately operated layouts around the country which most of us don't know about. They range from the very grand such as The Hills near Queenstown, which isn't yet an affiliated club to New Zealand Golf, to the tiny, almost unknown places like North Ridge Country Lodge near Silverdale and Chatto Creek and Wedderburn on the Central Otago Rail Trail.

By the time he's finished, Bartlett reckons he'll have raised around $70,000 for a number of charities.

The idea of playing golf every day for a year in a different place might sound like heaven, but think about it. Anybody who's played every day for, say, a fortnight on a golfing holiday, knows that after a while the idea of yet another round starts to lose its novelty value.

Did Bartlett ever have moments, especially as the nights grew colder and the days shorter, when he felt lonely or depressed about one more night in his camper van - preparing for one more game at some small isolated golf course with sheep grazing the fairways?

"I never got to the stage where I thought I'd toss it in completely," he told me after playing at Otaki on Thursday. "There were days, about a third of the way through when the fundraising wasn't all that flash, I wondered if it was all worth it. But then I told myself to snap out of it.

"Actually the last few weeks, with the end in sight, have been as hard as any. But then I have a day like I've had at Otaki today where they've raised a grand and I feel like I'm doing something worthwhile."

When he started at Kauri Cliffs on August 1 (and shot a considerably worse than expected 93) his handicap was 2.7. Twelve months and 419 rounds later it's out to 4.4 after, at one stage, blowing out to 7.

As well as Kauri Cliffs there have been other rough days, but they've been balanced by rounds which are good for the ego. He shot 61 at Albany Lakes. So what if the par is 56!

Bartlett has kept a daily diary on his website and his impressions make fascinating reading, ranging from his sheer delight in being one of the privileged few to have played The Hills to his utter disbelief at how bad the greens were at the Chatham Islands Golf Club.

Bartlett scored centuries for Somerset in English county cricket, but this golfing odyssey will surely be his finest sporting year.

"After I finish on July 28, I certainly won't be playing on July 29. But, come next weekend, I'll be back out there with my mates.

"I can't wait."

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