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Beyond The Game

Leg up: Colleagues go down kicking (and screaming inside)

Friendly competition: Senior athlete outlasts younger generation in latest sporting craze: footgolf
By Ken Waltz | Nov 09, 2020
Photo by: Zack Miller Holly Vanorse Spicer, wearing her colorful soccer cleats, kicks the ball down the course.

It has been said slow and steady wins the race. While that seldom is true, this time the old tortoise beat a trio of young hares — essentially at their own game.

For the first time since March, the Courier Publications/VillageSoup sports staff — Mark Haskell, Holly Vanorse Spicer, Zack Miller and me — pushed aside the phone calls, emails, texts and Zoom meetings to, wait for it, gather in-person at the same location.

I know. Shocking.

We enjoyed long-needed, face-to-face, human-to-human interaction and a smidgen of team bonding. We also enjoyed a bit of outdoor fun in the process because everyone knows now, in the era of a never-ending pandemic, no one can have safe indoor fun without completely covering one's self with sanitizer or wearing a hazmat suit.

Watch video and see more photos below.

Thus, we gathered at Jaycee Park/Kenniston Field on Old County Road in Rockland to, of course, first, socially distance and, second, to play the new sports craze sweeping the world. Well, perhaps the nation. Maine? Midcoast? OK, not sweeping, but really, really popular.

I speak, of course, of Footgolf, where one kicks a soccer ball (but I suppose a kickball or other type of round object would work) around a field/course that includes plastic orange traffic cones, adorned with flags, that sit inside several-foot-wide circles. Those circles/cones/flags sit dozens of yards from the starting directional areas.

The idea is to kick the ball from the starting spot and have it eventually end up inside the spray-painted circle. Once inside the circle, one counts the number of kicks it took to get from point A to B.

Of course, one is taught a straight line is the best way to accomplish such a feat, but none of us used that method in our nine-hole adventure that took us over hill, dale and into the weeds (bushes).

Our foursome needed no tee time. No clubs. No money. Just a ball and positive, adventurous attitude.

In this case, it was the slow, overweight, 61-year-old against the 20- and 30-somethings. On paper, it did not seem a fair competition, for a number of obvious reasons, not the least of which was each of them have young children and that means kicking a ball around is probably something they do often.

Meanwhile, this senior citizen spends too much time on the couch and collects dust.

Of course, their youth and athleticism — Holly is a personal trainer and more fit than we three men combined, along with the fact she has a passion for soccer — gave me pause, but there was little doubt who would come out on top. Me. Of course.

Call me cocky, arrogant, overconfident, but I am always able to put my verbal bravado into practice. Like everyone else, I have never — ever — put my foot in my mouth. Remember, it is not bragging if one can actually do what one states.

Why would I not be confident? Back in my glory days, albeit about half century ago, I was king of floor hockey, dodgeball and, of course, kickball.

The kicker in this scenario is, of course, that I also play golf for a living (well, not a living, but many times weekly during the spring, summer and fall), so I know my way around a foot wedge, which I've used often to kick the golf ball out of trouble and closer to the green or hole.

So how hard could this footgolf thing be, right?

Well, as it turns out, more challenging then it appears.

Like traditional golf, there is a par for each of the nine holes. The Old County Road course includes two par-3s, five par-4s and two par-5s for a kick total of 36. The course is 526 yards, which is more than five football fields in length, with the shortest hole being 38 yards and longest 86 yards.

The course originally was set up for a youth soccer program, which has concluded, and the decision was made to keep it set up for public enjoyment. Such as for use by those from our media company's sports crew who has pandemic fatigue and who missed each other (I think? I hope?).

While I was surprised I was unable to actually set the ball on a real golf tee, I made due kicking it straight from the grass.

I trailed most of the nine holes, but I simply waited for my opponents to literally and figuratively stub their toes. Mark showed off many long, powerful kicks and looked strong, but took a few too many chances (I have no idea why) and had a few errant kicks go into the woods. That made for some difficult recoveries — even a throw-in or two — and opened the door for the rest of us.

Zack also was steady, but made a few untimely mistakes. Of course, we also made Zack take video of us playing so he was a bit distracted holding the large video camera on his shoulder and not entirely focused on the task at hand, or foot.

I figured my most serious competition would come from Holly. She loves soccer and knows ever team and player in the world (and that is only a slight exaggeration). Her soccer knowledge is akin to my baseball knowledge. And she came wearing the coolest, most colorful soccer cleats I have seen. Additionally, she has a strong, accurate leg and she was nice enough to let me use one of her spare soccer balls — albeit, the one with her dog's teeth marks all over it.

So, while rest of the group used real soccer balls, I, well, used a dog toy. Talk about getting no respect. But, as usual, I persevered against all odds. No obstacle too great for me to face and scale.

Holly actually was in solid position until one errant shot left her close to a fence and bush. She took a few extra shots to get out of that predicament and the old fox (that would be me) took advantage.

"Being the more experienced of the quartet, I should have won this thing," Holly lamented. "And I will go practice, several times a day, and demand a rematch in a few weeks."

Holly said, on a more serious note, "it’s a good show of how getting in your head can kick your butt. I was so focused on not hitting the gate door on 'hole' 7, that I ended up in the bush right there, and that’s what did me in."

Ultimately, I finished 6-under par 30, with Zack and Mark at 31 and Holly at 32. The key to my glorious victory was a pair of twos on back-to-back holes, one the 35-yard par-3 fourth for birdie and 70-yard par-4 fifth for eagle.

I finished with four pars, four birdies and an eagle. Mark ended with one par, five birdies and an eagle, but capped his round with two bogeys in the final three holes.

After six holes, Mark had only taken 15 kicks to 18 for Ken and Holly and 17 for Zack. But the well-driller's son sprung a leak and fell apart down the stretch.

"I joked as I got out of the car, in Larry Bird fashion, 'I'm just here to see which one of you is going to finish second.' As it turned out, that was me.

"I definitely held a sizeable lead after six holes and had a great drive on hole seven that overshot the dogleg right through the fence. I wanted to kick it back toward the gate and get either a tap-in birdie or eagle, but Ken pointed out how 'great" it would be if a chipped it over the fence and what a tremendous shot that would be. I took the bait, missed the chip and ended up getting a six.

"Also had a great drive on 9 and took the bait again to chip over the fence and came up short. Then I went to tap the ball into Zack's video camera lens for an easy par and he moved it and I overshot the hole and had to tap in for bogey.

"I'm angry not only because the video would have been great to have the ball knock the camera over, but it was the difference between a tie for first and a tie for second.

"All that aside, I choked and I brought shame upon myself, my family and my Dojo (I don't have a Dojo). Now I have to find a way to move forward and live with the humiliation."

Zack finished with three pars, four birdies, an eagle and a bogey.

"Going into the event I thought I may have a leg up (pun intended) on the competition, since I've been outside all spring and summer kicking soccer balls around with my son, but, alas, the boss man got the best of us," Zack said. "Surprisingly, we all ended up well under par, especially for people of our skill level, as well as within one or two strokes of each other. I believe a rematch is warranted now that we have some experience under our collective belts."

Holly finished with four pars, three birdies, an eagle and a bogey.

Ultimately, through hard work, perseverance and dedication to my kicking craft, I won. I pulled it out. I am so proud and satisfied with a job well done.

I faced the toughest competition our sports staff had to offer and came out on top. I am sure my family is proud. And surely my two-year-old granddaughter, Audrey, will be especially proud if I make sure I tell her when she is not preoccupied with her toys. She may even clap and say, "Yay, Grampa Ken."

While I was, decades ago, a youth, high school and college athlete, and continue to stay relatively fit through walking and weight training, I have to admit I was sore the day after we walked the course. I lament not taking a cart.

And the big toe on my right foot still hurts. I guess I was kicking the ball wrong. Holly gave me an impromptu soccer ball-kicking lesson before the match, but those words of wisdom did not stick in my thick, aging brain.

But, fortunately, for me I had just enough left in the tank — and my big toe — to pull out the sweet, life-altering, memory-making, unforgettable victory.

And my colleagues should not even think about asking for a rematch. I am too wise to take that bait and risk my hard-earned championship

By the way, do I get anything for winning? Perhaps a raise? Another week of vacation?

That extra time off certainly would allow me to work on my footgolf skills. Maybe even forge a second career on the footgolf professional tour, which I suspect eventually will be sponsored by FootJoy.

Feet and joy. That is footgolf in a nutshell.

Footgolf at Jaycee Park in Rockland
Courier Publications/VillageSoup sports staff gathers for friendly footgolf competition. (Video by: Zack Miller)
Zack Miller, left, and Holly Vanorse Spicer check the players' handiwork — well, footwork. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Mark Haskell, left, takes out cameraman Zack Miller with an accurate kick. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Ken Waltz steps into a kick. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
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Comments (1)
Posted by: Toby Stinson | Nov 10, 2020 10:23

That looks like Fun!



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