Game Changers

Mission Accomplished: Playing 100 Rounds in 100 Days to Help End Alzheimer's

By Jay Coffin
Published on

Dave Blakelock grew up playing golf but admits that he never played more than 8 times a year as an adult.
Then he came up with the wild idea to play 100 rounds of golf in 100 consecutive days. 
“I wanted to do something outside the box,” Blakelock said.
Mission accomplished.
Blakelock’s mother-in-law Katy Grunz had recently passed away from complications due to Alzheimer’s. His mother Dorothy Jardine was in the throes of a battle with the same hideous disease. The timing felt right. And the cause was deeply personal.
“It forced me to take it seriously and it forced me to reach out and get people behind it,” Blakelock said. “It allowed it to be bigger than just me driving across the country to play golf. If it wasn’t bigger than just me then I probably would’ve quit in two weeks.”
So the 61-year-old from Boston set out to plan his marathon journey knowing that it would take some time to put together all the logistics. 
He planned, and planned, and planned. It was becoming such an overwhelming chore that he figured it was best to contact experts to help him complete a tight, smooth itinerary. He turned to online tee time company, where one of his best friends was the CEO. Together, they solidified a schedule that would start March 14, 2019, in Southern California and end June 21 near his home in Boston. 
Blakelock’s spreadsheet was perfectly detailed with categories for date, golf course, address, how many miles it was to the next destination and the time that drive was expected to take. First up? The JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa in Palm Desert, California.
Early in the trip, Blakelock’s mother was not doing well so he suspended everything for three days to go visit her. Dorothy Jardine died on April 15 and Blakelock continued his journey. The funeral for her was held when he completed his quest.
Places where Blakelock played over the span were Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts. 
A special idea came to mind just before starting the journey. Blakelock wanted to add a ritual of sorts to each round, he wanted to do something memorable each time that would honor someone who had died from Alzheimer’s. Purple is the official color of the Alzheimer’s movement, so Blakelock decided that he’d play a purple ball on the third hole.
When Blakelock played in Pittsburgh, he played in honor of former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll, who died from the disease. When he started his journey in California, he played in honor of Pete Dye, the architect of the PGA West Stadium Course that he was playing at the time.
On March 27, Blakelock was scheduled to play Laughlin Ranch in Bullhead City, Arizona, right on the border of Arizona and Nevada. Blakelock always made a point of telling either the head golf professional or general manager why he was there that day and what he was attempting to accomplish. On this Wednesday morning, Blakelock spoke with LaNora Ochs, the assistant to the GM, who told Blakelock that her mother had died from Alzheimer’s. Blakelock asked if he could play the third hole with a purple ball in honor of her mother. When the round was over Blakelock presented the ball to Ochs, who still has it displayed on her desk now three years later.
“I’m surprised by the impact that it had,” he says. “It was amazing to me and very moving. Those types of personal connections were important to the trip.”
On the 98th day, Blakelock played Butternut Farm in Stow, Massachusetts. A week earlier, Mark Mungeam, the golf course architect, asked Blakelock if he could join him for the round. A couple days later Mungeam contacted Blakelock again, this time to see if his father, in his 90s and battling Alzheimer’s, could play with them. On the back nine, Mungeam’s father took a few swings and played parts of three holes.
“After a couple swings, that muscle memory kicked back in,” Blakelock said. “That was a tremendous afternoon.”
Other details of note:
  • There were many days of rain during the trip, especially once he headed toward the south. Blakelock often called an audible and would try to sneak out in the first group of the day when weather was forecast to be bad.
  • He did not hit a hole in one. He did get within a foot on a couple occasions. (He has, however, recorded a hole in one since his return.)
  • He lost nearly 20 pounds during the mission.
  • During the six months prior to the trip he did yoga and cardio to get into better shape.
  • He played 10 days in a row at one point as preparation, believing that if he could play 10 straight days he’d have no problem playing 100 consecutive.
  • He worked hard to get his handicap from a 24 down to a 14 before the trip, believing that at a 14 he would not embarrass himself in any situation he found himself in.
  • Friends would join him for several rounds when their schedules would allow. Blakelock called those his “social days” and looking forward to them helped him mentally.
  • He had enough clothes for 10 day stretches, so he did laundry after dinner every 10 days.
Finally, on June 21, it was all over. Blakelock completed his mission, had driven 9,368 miles in his Toyota RAV4 rental, made new friends along the way and raised $50,000 for Alzheimer’s research. He returned home, kissed wife Maggie and his daughters Cat and Alex.
And what did Blakelock do on the 101st day? He played golf, of course.