New world record holder Mick McLoughlin knew his shot at history would require playing golf in an unconventional manner, but having to play on flooded greens was not part of the plan.
“I was using a chipper on the greens to keep the ball out of the water,” the Brisbane businessman and philanthropist said.
“One ball went into the hole and came back out and I said to the judges ‘what do I do? I can’t keep it in the hole and they said ‘that’s alright we’ve seen it go in’.”
McLoughlin overcame Brisbane’s record rainfall to complete 2001 holes (cart assisted) in seven days at Wynnum Golf Club and raise more than $275,000 for Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Three days into the challenge however, it all could have come unstuck by the brutal storms.
The Irishman-turned-Queenslander needed to play 16 rounds a day to maintain world record pace and with 27 holes remaining in the day his best friend and manager Mike Hutchinson suggested that they head inside and get dry.
“I was fairly exhausted and Hutch said to me, ‘mate, you’ve got nine holes left in this round and another 18 to complete the minimum 16 in a day, so why don’t we pull up stumps after the nine?’,” McLoughlin recalled.
“I said, ‘no way mate. Sixteen a day is what we said to achieve this record’.”
As he continued through the back nine, McLoughlin changed his thinking and what followed proved to be the catalyst for his success.
“When I got to the 18th hole, it went through my mind that I’ve signed up for this but all these volunteers could be at home with their families,” he said.
“They didn’t sign up for this so I asked them and not one of them said they wouldn’t go another 18. That was kind of a turning point in the whole week because these people were behind me 100 percent and how could I let them down?
“The next morning I got up and I was, like, ‘throw whatever you want at us because we’ve got through the worst of it’.”
The next day presented a very different mental challenge to the previous night.
A planned corporate day was cancelled due to the wet weather, but McLoughlin’s friends ventured into the clubhouse instead and that meant he missed out on the action.
“It killed me that they were having a beer up on the balcony and I was playing golf because I wanted to be with them,” McLoughlin said with a laugh.
“But it was such a morale boost to see them there.”
Greater challenges eventuated in the coming days as McLoughlin’s body began to cry out for help.
His feet were aching and covered in blisters, while a toe on his right foot that was never fixed properly after breaking years ago was causing him to do odd things in his golf swing.
“When I was hitting the glow balls at night I was actually kicking my foot out and any golfer watching would have been devastated,” McLoughlin again said with a chuckle.
“But it was the body’s way of saying there’s a lot of pain there.”
The previous record holder, Geno Bonnelli, had warned him that he would hit a wall at some stage, but McLoughlin had prepared for a year for this moment and his body was in “the best shape a 58-year-old body could be”.
His training was effective as he entered the final day needing to play 14 more rounds to claim the record.
Despite the pain and the rain, he had somehow moved ahead of the necessary pace and set the stage for a big Saturday evening finale.
“We wanted to finish in daylight because I did not want to finish hitting glow balls,” he said.
“They’re as hard as rocks. If you don’t hit the sweet spot you feel it up your arms and I wasn’t confident feeling fatigued that I would hit the sweet spot.
“The night before they nearly killed me. I apologised to everyone how bad I was hitting them. It just got worse and worse again.”
Full of adrenaline with the finish line in sight, McLoughlin began to hit the ball better than he had all week.
“I was enjoying my golf, I was hitting them sweet and I was like ‘wow, that’s long and straight’. But then my son, Ben, said to me ‘dad, at this rate you’ll finish half past seven’ so I was enjoying myself too much,” he said.
The hurry up resulted in McLoughlin knocking off the next nine holes in 21 minutes and the full round in 48 minutes.
He was operating at lightning speed, but his body could cope no more.
“I had no feeling in my feet and my hands were so numb that I had to physically put them on the club and tell them to grip the club,” he recounted.
Just as he had all week, he pressed on and he arrived at the second tee knowing he was close to the end.
Hutchinson informed him that this was the 2000th hole – the world record equalling hole – and that the crowd was waiting for him at the ninth green.
After all the golf he played, the ninth felt like a lifetime away and McLoughlin made the call to play the 2001st hole and start the celebrations.
His family gathered around the third green to savour the world record clinching moment – McLoughlin dropped to his knees through exhaustion and relief after sinking the all important putt – and then he decided to head to the ninth to take it all in.
“Playing the ninth was for cameras only. I didn’t think it’ll count in the record because it has to be in sequence,” he said.
“Everything was finished then and it felt different because I was there for the celebration. It felt exhilarating.
“The worry I had in my head was that I couldn’t go for the green because I didn’t want to hit into all the people there so I hit a bad shot off the tee and chipped onto the green.”
He grabbed a beer – which he was unable to finish due to his fatigue – and enjoyed some banter with the crowd to take in the magnitude of what he had achieved.
His remarkable week had included moments like playing a flooded golf course, two near hole-in-ones, his daughter in Sydney and family back in his original home of Kildare in Ireland calling him out for hitting his buggy with his club in frustration while on the live stream and a flushed 3-iron crossover that was not caught on camera.
“I was that disgusted that they didn’t get it on camera,” he said with a laugh.
In the end, it was so much more than a week. It was a year-long effort to provide essential accommodation and support services to seriously ill children and their families, and Mick McLoughlin could not be happier that he has helped those people.
Donations can be still be made at https://fundraise.rmhc.org.au/micks-charity-challenge