Summer 2019

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E ric Byrnes is Northern California's own, so there's a good chance you've seen "Byrnesy" in his Major League Baseball days smacking into outfield walls, or issuing high-energy baseball takes on MLB Network, or perhaps when he swam/ran/biked from San Francisco to New York City last summer. Yeah, Eric Byrnes knows only one speed: all-out. That's why your surprise factor might be low when I tell you that on April 22, at the Ocean Course at Half Moon Bay Golf Links, from the hours of 7 a.m. to the following morning at 7 a.m., Byrnes set a Guinness Book of World Records-certified record by playing 420 golf holes in 24 hours. That's more holes than some of us working stiffs play in a year. That's 23 1/3 rounds of golf. That's 106 miles covered. That's a lot of time for lip outs and shanks, sports fans. And birdies! He made two, playing only with a women's graphite 8-iron he dubbed "Hot Lucy." It's also a lot of time to raise money for his youth sports foundation Let Them Play ($65,000); and a lot of time for him to burn 14,367 calories on avocados (12), Cokes (12), pizzas (2) and mustard mouth squirts (23), among other snacks. It took a village for Byrnes to set the speed-golf en- durance record, something he'd eyed since he'd learned that Australian Ian Colston played 401 holes in 24 hours in 1971. Byrnes' Let Them Play Foundation is dedicated to getting kids outside and active, especially in communities where budget cuts have affected opportunity. Put together a chance to raise money for kids and a chance for an extreme experience and you have a Byrnesy cocktail of endurance, pain and deranged joy. "It was one of the coolest experiences of my life," he said. "In extreme sports, they say it's like living a lifetime in a day, experiencing the highs and lows of life, and realizing that neither last. "Here's the thing – this never had the low. Ever." Byrnes attributes this to all of the local support of his quest. The Half Moon Bay High football team came and ran with him. So did the cheerleading squad. And Byrnes' favorite, the Pescadero softball team. They helped him make one of his two birdies, on the par-5 8th hole. The girls asked him his uniform number in MLB. Told it was 22, the girls started a softball chant, "We believe in you, two-two! We believe in you!" "I got so fired up, I launched my tee shot about 220," said Byrnes. "They ran with me and I did it again, another 220." That was part of his best round, a 116 scored by jogging and swiping the ball, polo-style, using Hot Lucy like a mallet. He teed off with two hands, the rest were one-handers. Swipe, jog. His worst round was his last, 168 swipes. He made a 20 on one hole, in Round 24. The golf gods forgive him. You'd think Byrnes is sick of the royal and ancient game now. "I love it more than ever," he said, but not without raising questions for all of us: "It did make me wonder how or why I would ever play a five-hour round. Why even take a full bag?" Now that's extreme. So was this tale: When Byrnes trained one night, he encountered the glowing eyes of a mountain lion behind a green. "It made you think – this is the cat's territory," he said. He figured the lights of the gas golf carts would scare off any dangerous creatures the night of the record chase. But when the sheriff came around 3 a.m. and made Byrnes' crew shut down the gas golf carts and their lights, all he had was a headlamp and the darkness. That's when coming off the 8th green at the Ocean Course, near a ranch, he realized there are things worse than a double bogey – such as the growl of a mountain lion. This one wasn't singing Hakuna Matata. "You get a little fear," Byrnes said. "But at 3 a.m., after going all day, I looked at it as, you know, a different part of the movie. Something new, and fresh. I enjoyed it." Classic Byrnesy. Brian Murphy hosts the KNBR morning show "Murph and Mac" and was the San Francisco Chronicle's golf writer from 2001–04. 72 SUMMER 2019 | NCGA.ORG M U R P H Y ' S L A W Former Oakland A's Outfielder Eric Byrnes Goes Deep Again BY BRIAN MURPHY 420 holes of golf in 24 hours? That's more than some of us working stiffs play in a year!

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