Making the Rounds: Auburn golfer wastes no time at Speedgolf World Championships

Brad Kearns finished 20th last month at the Speedgolf World Championships in Bandon, Ore.
Brad Kearns finished 20th last month at the Speedgolf World Championships in Bandon, Ore. Brad Kearns

If there were a Champions Tour equivalent for speedgolf, Brad Kearns would be licking his chops.

Bernhard Langer? Please. Tom Lehman? Hah. Colin Montgomerie? Yikes.

Kearns, a 5-handicapper who plays only a handful of 18-hole rounds a year, would crush the best 50-and-over pro golfers in the world if each minute it took to complete 18 holes counted as a stroke and were added to produce the final score.

The Auburn resident, 49, needed 51 minutes, 46 seconds to shoot an 83 at Oregon’s Bandon Dunes two weeks ago. His 134.46 total placed him 20th in the Speedgolf World Championships.

Eri Crum, a former Stanford teammate of Tiger Woods, shot a 76 in 46:01 minutes to win with a 122.01 total. Ireland’s Rob Hogan, the defending champion, had the fastest round (39:57), and combined with his 83, he finished second. Christopher Smith had the best round (73), but he needed 63:09 and finished 25th.

Kearns, the third-ranked triathlete in the world in the early 1990s who works as a heath and fitness writer and publisher, was impressed with the athleticism.

“I’m the runner in the group and I’m getting beat by 10 minutes,” he said.

Kearns dabbled with speedgolf when it became popular two decades ago, but the fad was short-lived. He became reacquainted with the sport a year ago when Speedgolf International hosted its second world championship with a purse of $50,000.

Consider him hooked. His goal is to trim six shots from his score and six minutes from his time for next year. He’s reduced the number of clubs he carries from five to four (a 3-wood, 5-hybrid, 47-degree wedge, putter) and ditched the bag to carry them because of the seconds it takes to get the clubs in and out. He’s determined not to rush 2-foot putts that cost him a paying spot.

Kearns plays nine holes several times a week at courses around Auburn and is home in less than an hour. The combination of fitness and time efficiency is appealing, but what he really appreciates is “the potential to get out of your head.”

There are no swing thoughts, just deep breaths. It’s amazing, he said, how the swing synchs up with the body the more tired you get.

“I had a 65-foot putt in the pouring rain, my glasses were fogged up and I was exhausted,” he said of a back-nine putt. “I just got up and hit it to 3 inches. If I sat there on a sunny day and tried that putt 100 times, I’m not going to get it to 3 inches.

“You tap into a zone where you’re not thinking, you’re just reacting.”

Roseville’s Shannon Hoyt finished 29th.

Et cetera

▪ Oak Ridge’s Lexi Perry and Woodland Christian’s Courtney Vogel each shot a 6-over-par 78 Monday at Crazy Horse Ranch in Salinas to advance as individuals to next week’s high school girls state golf tournament.

▪ Tom Johnson was named assistant men’s golf coach at UC Davis. Johnson, a graduate of Del Campo High School and Northwestern, played in 27 tournaments as a member of the PGA Tour in 2007 and four years on the Nationwide Tour.

▪ El Macero opened a $250,000 practice area over the weekend. It features two large greens, two deep bunkers and two types of grass – Bermuda and rye – off which players can chip. The project was a public-private partnership between UC Davis athletics, El Macero and Troon Golf, which manages the club.

▪ Scott Gordon of Fair Oaks began the second stage of Tour qualifying Tuesday in Brooksville, Fla., with a 6-over 78, placing him 74th in a field of 78. The top 19 after four rounds advance to the final stage.

▪ WildHawk completed renovation of its 53 bunkers. The project took three years.

Call The Bee’s Steve Pajak, (916) 326-5526.