World speedgolf champ Jamie Young shot 72-77 in an incredible 101 minutes

By Gary D'Amato
Published on
World speedgolf champ Jamie Young shot 72-77 in an incredible 101 minutes

KENOSHA, Wisc. -- Jamie Young wouldn't stand a chance against Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy in a regular round of golf.

If they played his game, though, he'd run circles around them.

Young plays speedgolf, which combines running and golf. He whips through 18 holes in about the time it takes the average touring pro to park his courtesy car and saunter into the clubhouse. His pace of play is an eight-minute mile. You know how a good baseball player runs out every ground ball? Young runs out every tee shot. He's a hustler, which normally is not a compliment in golf.

Last week, Young, of Kenosha, Wisc., won the World Speedgolf Championship at The Glen Club in suburban Chicago. In the first round, he shot an even-par 72 in 50 minutes for a score of 122 (in speedgolf, the golf score and time are added together). In the second round, he shot a 77 in 51 minutes for a 128. He ran 4.9 miles each day.

So how does it feel to be a world champion?

"I tell everybody it's kind of a small world," Young said with a laugh.

That's true. Speedgolf is a niche sport within a niche sport, with perhaps 1,000 participants worldwide. Among them are four-time Olympian Bernard Lagat and Nick Willis of New Zealand, the bronze medalist in the 1,500 meters at the Rio Olympics. If they were scratch players, they'd be unbeatable.

Rob Hogan of Ireland, the Ben Hogan of speedgolf, is a two-time world champion (and finished third last week). Mitch Williamson of Australia holds the world record of 108. He needed 31 minutes to shoot a 77, which meant he played each hole in less than two minutes.

You won't excel at speedgolf if you can run five-minute miles but can't break 100, or if you have a plus-3 handicap but move like Craig Stadler in the buffet line.

Young, 52, has just the right combination of golf talent and physical fitness. He played college golf at the University of Oklahoma in the mid-1980s with Andrew Magee, Todd Hamilton and Grant Waite and is a four-time club champion at The Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha.

About 15 years ago, after fatigue set in on Day 2 of a weeklong ski trip with his three sons, Young, who owns an investment firm, resolved to lose some weight. He signed up for a spinning class and shed 30 pounds in three months.

"After I lost the weight, which was my initial goal, I had to have something else to keep my interest," he said. "Next thing you know I'm running half-marathons and marathons. I started doing half-Ironman (triathlons) and I ended up doing the Wisconsin Ironman five years in a row. So I kind of took it to the extreme."

A friend introduced him to speedgolf in 2013 and he won the first tournament he entered. He was hooked.

Young typically carries five or six clubs. Last week, he won with a driver, putter, utility club, 8-iron, pitching wedge and sand wedge. He wears running shoes instead of golf spikes and monitors his pace and heartbeat with a GPS watch.

"Over time, I've learned to slow down and focus because that's my real strength," he said. "Most of the competitors are way younger than me and can run a lot faster. Rob Hogan can run a mile in under five minutes. But there's probably only a handful who are as good as me (at golf)."

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Young is straight with his driver, which helps when the object is to get from tee to green as quickly as possible. He takes precious little time over the ball.

"I probably take a couple seconds over each shot," he said. "Because I'm not a fast runner I've got to have a very fast routine. When I'm hitting a drive, it's a quick look and I'm gone. I'm running down the fairway before it even lands."

He's sort of a cross between Bill Rodgers the marathoner and Bill Rogers the 1981 British Open champion. He once played 100 holes -- running 28.3 miles -- in 6 hours 44 minutes.

Young trains for speedgolf events by playing early in the morning or in the evening at Strawberry Creek. He also owns a condo at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and trains on its three courses in the winter.

He competes as an amateur because he still enters conventional golf tournaments. Under a new U.S. Golf Association rule, he was allowed to designate the $10,000 first prize from his victory last week to charity; the money is going to Southeastern Wisconsin Youth for Christ.

Young slows down, relatively speaking, when he plays regular golf. As one might guess, though, he is not a big fan of methodical plodders who freeze over the ball for 30 seconds.

"How many swing thoughts do you need?" he said. "Get set up and hit the thing."

This article was written by Gary D'Amato from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.