Fall 2018

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I n Scotland, the home of golf, you can see signs on the first tee that read, as a half-warning, half- admonishment to slow-playing American tourists: "Golf is a three-hour game." If Sacramento's Brad Kearns and San Luis Obispo's Josh Heptig saw that sign, they might ask: "Why does it take you that long, Scotty?" Heptig, the 42-year-old course superintendent at Dairy Creek Golf Course, and Kearns, 53, a former triathlete who once shot 78 at Spring Creek in Ripon in 47 minutes, are proud warriors in the Speed Golf Army, the fast-moving movement that is gaining mileage in the golf community. The premise is simple: Hit your golf shot. Run, don't walk, to your ball. Lather, rinse, repeat, until you've covered the nearly four miles of an 18-hole golf course, along the way burning calories and precon- ceived notions that golf is a slow game. "It's addictive, for sure," said Heptig, a former dis- tance runner at Kansas State, before adding what may be the most compelling case for lacing up your running shoes and hitting the links. "The great thing about speed golf is, you have no time to think about bad shots." For those of us who struggle with the mental demons the game of golf provides, Heptig may be speaking a revolutionary language. Imagine golf with- out mental baggage! It's just, well, you're going to sweat a lot and breathe heavily along the way. He even became an unofficial world record-holder along the way. Video of his playing a 500-yard par-5 at Dairy Creek in 1:47.13 is must-watch stuff. It's alter- nately entertaining and stressful, as Heptig's sprint down the fairway with one club calls to mind a guy being chased by the cops, or at the least a guy who really, really, really has to go to the bathroom. His record has since been broken by Kearns, who set the official Guinness Book World Record on June 1, but Heptig's 107 seconds will live in infamy. Kearns is a longtime speed golfer who finished third in the California Professional Speedgolf Champi- onships, but he didn't know about the single-hole record until he surfed the net. "It started as all great athletic performances do with me browsing YouTube and finding this dude from Eng- land (Steve Jeffs) who had video of himself playing the fastest hole ever played," Kearns said. "I was captivated. It looked like so much fun." He practiced at Bing Maloney Golf Course and assembled his "Dream Team" of 12 witnesses, includ- ing an official timer, a photographer and videographer and on May 8 at Bing's par-5 ninth hole he shattered the record in 1:40.24 from 503 yards (minimum length required is 500). Yet, he felt he left something out there. So, on June 1 at the fourth hole at Woodley Lakes in Van Nuys he took another stab and whittled his time down to 1:38.75. Using only a 3-wood, he made birdie and broke into a celebration that rivals the likes of Terrell Owens or Randy Moss after a touchdown. "No one's going to beat this record," Kearns pro- claimed. Heptig and Kearns usually carry an arsenal of four clubs for 18 holes – a 3-wood, a 6- or 7-iron, a wedge and a putter. Travel light, travel fast. And their concept that stripping down the game to the basics—don't think, just swing—is winning converts. "It's like I always say, my handicap is the same as yours. It's the six inches between my ears," Heptig says. Scoring in speed golf is different, too. You take your total number of strokes, then add your total number of minutes run. In other words, maybe you shoot a 105. If you run the course in 50 minutes, your 155 might beat a competitor who shoots 95 – but is lugging a piano on his back and runs the course in 61 minutes. The second annual U.S. Speedgolf Champi- onships is in Rome, N.Y. in October and the Speedgolf World Championships are in nearby Verona, two days later. Kearns can't wait. Heptig has work and family, but is trying to figure out a way to get those running shoes and four clubs into a travel bag and go. The event he held at Dairy Creek in the spring made some believers. Said Heptig, proud spreader of the gospel: "The ones who played told me: I got my exercise in, I got home to family in time, didn't impact my work ... let's do this every week. This is awesome." Brian Murphy hosts the KNBR morning show "Murph and Mac" and was the San Francisco Chronicle's golf writer from 2001–04. 80 FALL 2018 | NCGA.ORG M U R P H Y ' S L A W Go, Speed Racer, Go! BY BRIAN MURPHY Imagine golf without mental baggage! It's just, well, you're going to sweat a lot and breathe heavily along the way.

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