Slow Play? No Way: The Dusk to Dawn Golf Challenge Presented by Paradigm Capital

When your golf season’s only one day long, you damn well better make it count.

You don’t just get up early, you get up in the middle of the night, if you’re able to sleep at all. Forget about driving to the course — there’s a stretch-limo SUV with satellite TV and an open bar waiting for you in the driveway.

Bigs and Littles: the beneficiaries, young and old, of the Dusk to Dawn Golf Challenge

A breakfast buffet awaits in the clubhouse, so don’t bother with that cold Egg McMuffin. And you can skip the pro shop, because there’s a goody bag loaded down with golf treats. Oh, and an unlimited supply of golf balls — because when you’re trying to jam as many holes as possible into a 12-hour window of daylight, you don’t have time to look for the strays.

Slow play doesn’t exist at the annual Dawn to Dusk Golf Challenge presented by Paradigm Capital, a fast-paced, whack-f**k frenzy of fairways-and-greens fundraising that’s fuelled by equal parts humanity, insanity and middle-of-the-morning Keg-sized Caesars. And the spouse can’t give you grief, because it’s all for the benefit of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Toronto.

Some 29 participants are gathering this week at Clublink’s Glencairn Golf Club for a 12-hour marathon where the point is to cram into a single day as many golf holes as physics, the human body and the laws of time and space will allow.

Many are hard-core speed golfers who gather their sponsorships on a per-hole basis, which means the more they play, the more money they raise — thus making the expression “playing through” something that’s shouted from a speeding golf cart as it races past the pokier pairings on the course. Some of these guys barely exit the cart to hit their shots, making their games something more akin to polo than golf.

Yes, there’s a lot to be said for cramming a year’s worth of golf into a single day.

Even those who adopt a more sane pace, like veteran Dawn to Dusker Andrew Sherbin, have to play at blistering speed to avoid getting lapped too often.

“It’s only for the brave,” Sherbin observes, “or borderline disturbed.”

I was lucky enough to accompany Sherbin last year when the Dawn to Dusk event was held at Clublink’s 27-hole Emerald Hills Golf Club in Stouffville, Ont., an undulating, respectable set of holes just northeast of Toronto. I knew I was in for an adventure when I saw how much space in the sponsor-stuffed welcome package was reserved for pain relief products of various kinds.

“I see it as a way to get as much golf in as possible, because with family and career commitments I don’t get out enough to see the effects of a full season,” Sherbin says in his best this-interview-is-not-being-conducted-by-email voice.

“In one day, my game is reflective of an entire year: start off lousy, get some consistency in the middle to convince me I have a shot at being good at this sport, and then completely fall apart at the end, crashing into a wall of embarrassment and humility.  All over 12 hours, versus five months.”

Of course, as organizers often like to say, the event really is the reward for the men and women who spend the year raising money on behalf of one of their favourite charities. Many start their efforts the day following the previous year’s outing. For them, the golf is secondary. What matters most are the children — “Littles” in Big Brother/Big Sister parlance.

For Sherbin, though he never lacked for the support of friends and family, growing up an only child in a stable, middle-class household gave him an appreciation for the value of having an older sibling to turn to at certain stages in life. By the time he discovered the value of Big Brothers and Big Sisters, it was too late to become a Big Brother himself, so fundraising became his way of making a contribution.

The Dawn to Dusk crew a couple of years ago at Angus Glen. Tim Wilson (left) and Andrew Sherbin (right) are holding the corners of the banner.

“I can’t imagine having a constant need for someone to turn to and not having someone there,” Sherbin says. “So, I’m doing what I can now for what I think is so important, especially for youth who are at risk and can be helped and guided by a Big Brother or Sister.  If my efforts can help provide the resources to match another Little with a Big, then I’ve helped make a difference.”

Kate Maynard, BBBS’s manager of fundraising events, says just prior to the weekend, the 29 golfers participating in the Dawn to Dusk Golf Challenge had raised a staggering $157,000 in sponsorship pledges, with more expected over the weekend.

“We expect that number to climb over the weekend, and we are looking to net around $125,000, which makes this a phenomenal golf fundraiser, particularly with the number of participants.”

Sherbin himself has been at it for five years, during which time he’s raised about $30,000 over the course of just under 400 holes. He’s just $900 shy of his $5,000 goal for 2010.

At its core, golf’s appeal has always been about tomorrow — the hope that the next day’s outing will be infinitely better than today’s. And yet, so many of us play the game as if it’s the last round of our lives: throttling the life out of the club, swinging with more effort than we’d use to dismantle a cord of wood and wringing our hands skyward as if that missed putt was to save the life of a first-born son or daughter.

During Dawn to Dusk, if you fan your opening drive or miss a birdie putt on 4, don’t worry — you’ll get another chance in a couple of hours. Just don’t wait too long, because those Caesars definitely do catch up to you.

A video that lays out the benefits of Big Brothers Big Sisters, as well as all the programs that benefit from the fundraising, can be found here, and anyone who’s interested in either making a contribution or becoming a “Big” can check out the details here.

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James McCarten

When James McCarten isn't at the Ottawa offices of The Canadian Press, where he works as parliamentary news editor, he's either on the golf course or putting off his latest freelance golf-writing gig to spend time with wife Lisa and school-age kids Claire and Lucas. With 20 years of experience in Canadian journalism, James also suffers from a financially crippling addiction to all things Scotty Cameron.

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