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NORTON, Massachusetts – Just before 10 a.m. Friday, Sally DeGan dropped her ball on the 4th tee, reached back and sent her first ball flying through the air.
“No practice swings today,” she shouted.
That swing was the first of hundreds as DeGan and four additional members of the Mass Golf community — Jesse Menachem, Scott Baker, Patrick Fannon and Andrew Sklar — played and walked 100 holes of golf all in one day as part of the 100 Hole Hike at The Links at Mass Golf in Norton.
The 100 Hole Hike is a nationwide effort to support Youth On Course, which brings affordable course access to youth golfers; in this case for those from Massachusetts. The $15 annual membership fee gives youth golfers ages 6-18 access to play at any participating course throughout the Bay State and across the country for only $5 per round.
The hikers have raised over $20,000 collectively, which will help subsidize those rounds of golf at participating courses.
“It’s kind of a dream,” said DeGan, a Mass Golf Board Member. “I’m happy to play golf from sunup to sundown and to play with a bunch of people who are also doing it out of the goodness of their hearts and help kids, nothing feels better.
“To help kids being able to play for $5, I’d walk 200 miles.”
Golfers had to play each hole on their lonesome, but family members and members of the Mass Golf community walked alongside them, either carrying their bags or providing encouraging words from a distance.
No aces were sunk in the 500 tee shots taken, but there was a birdie counter for each player. Despite the tired feet and sore muscles, players were all smiles by the end of their marathon golf session.
“Incredible, incredible; the first time I’ve ever done that,” said Menachem, Mass Golf’s Executive Director/CEO, after finishing his round in the afternoon. “Being out here with our team of volunteers who care so much about golf and the next generation of golfers I think it’s amazing.”
About 30 years ago, Patrick Fannon played 100 holes in one day at a separate event in South Florida, but he had a cart about then. On Friday, he was on foot with his “Southern Rock” playlist on his phone.
“I hit the ball a lot better than I thought I would for a longer period,” said Fannon, Mass Golf’s Manager of Member Events & Services. “The experience of being able to play 100 holes here at The Links is a perfect place to do it.”
DeGan was the first to finish her round, earning an extra $100 donation from fellow board member Peter Costello.
Sklar almost made an ace about an hour into play but settled for his first birdie. A member of Juniper Hill Golf Course in Northborough, Sklar was introduced to golf at a very young age by his father and grandfather and has now introduced it to his children.
“The opportunity to be able to share the game with other youth that many cases wouldn’t be able to take the game up is a real exciting challenge,” said Skalar, who works as the Regional Director Of Operations and Beverage Program Director at UNO Restaurants.
Baker, a Mass Golf Board Member and the founder/CEO of RTD Logistics, also completed the challenge.
“It feels great to be over,” Baker said, “but it was a great endeavor for a great cause.”
Youth On Course came to Massachusetts last year and has seen tremendous growth. More than 1,800 Youth On Course participants have combined to play over 5,500 rounds of golf at 22 participating locations. Mark Gagne, Mass Golf’s Director of Member Services, introduced the Youth On Course program to Mass Golf in June of last year and is thrilled to see golfers raising money and taking part in a unique event to support the program.
“It was a very modest rollout,” said Mark Gagne, Mass Golf’s Director of Member Services. “What we’ve seen this year has just far exceeded our expectations. It’s just fantastic. And then today’s events to see five finely-tuned athletes come out and play 100 holes in support of this program for many years to come … it all really helps put us in a great position going forward to continue to offer this program to young people ages 6 to 18.”
Gagne said the hope is to spread the program to more courses throughout the Bay State.
“We’d love to see that grow to 40 over the next couple of years,” Gagne said. ” The more contact we come in with young people throughout the state, the more opportunities we have to introduce them to to the game in a way that’s very affordable.”
Mass Golf extends its appreciation patrons, Titleist and FootJoy, for supporting youth golf initiatives throughout Massachusetts.
Even though the 100 Hole Hike is complete, you can still donate to all five participants.
Team Mass Golf
ABOUT YOUTH ON COURSE
Youth on Course serves more than 95,000 members in 37 states who have access to play golf at more than 1,400 courses across the US and Canada for $5 or less, giving them opportunities to learn lessons that can be taught in a way only a golf course can. Beyond affordable golf, Youth on Course provides opportunities for young people to get the support they need to succeed through our career prep, leadership and scholarship programs.