In his eight years of participation in the PGA of B.C. Golfathon for ALS, golf pro Brett Standewick has golfed up the tallest mountain on Vancouver Island, played a marathon 200-hole day, and even played 72 holes one-handed while his injured left arm was in a sling.
But his greatest challenge was pulling on the jersey of New York Yankees Hall-of-Famer Lou Gehrig.
“I’m a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan,” said Standewick, citing the Yankees’ Major League Baseball arch-rivals. “Putting on a Yankee jersey for a whole day was the hardest thing I’ve done.”
Playing 184 holes — to signify Gehrig’s single-season record for runs batted in — while hitting every tee shot with a baseball bat is only one of the zany ways Standewick has raised funds for the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
On Wednesday, Sept. 21, the CPGA golf pro at Fairwinds Golf Course in Nanoose Bay will take part in his ninth Golfathon for ALS by playing a quick round at Fairwinds and then kayaking to play 18-hole rounds at three separate Gulf Islands courses.
Standewick plans to begin his day with a 6 a.m. tee-off at Fairwinds and wrap up an 18-hole round within an hour. Following a quick jaunt to the Fairwinds marina, he’ll hop in his kayak to paddle south to Gabriola Island for 18 holes at Gabriola Golf & Country Club, paddle on to Salt Spring for 18 holes at Salt Spring Golf and Country Club and from there paddle to Pender Island for a final 18 holes at Pender Island Golf & Country Club.
“If the weather is decent, I should be able to do it all in one day,” Standewick said. “I haven’t done it all before, but I have done a number of multiple-day kayak trips. If a storm blows in, I may have to finish Thursday.”
The golfathon was begun a decade ago when the PGA of B.C. partnered with the ALS Society of B.C. on the annual fundraiser by golf pros across the province. Typically, the players will gather pledges to spend one day a year for a marathon, dawn-to-dusk round of golf on their home course.
Standewick, a 41-year-old father of three, began the same way, racking up a 200-hole day at Fairwinds. But he began turning his creativity to alternate ways of playing, including a round up the Golden Hinde, Vancouver Island’s tallest peak, and the round with a baseball bat and the Gehrig uniform.
“I just wanted to raise the profile of the event and do some different,” he said. “And I wanted to have some fun with it. It’s certainly been good at raising interest. I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback.”
He’s also raised a bunch of money for ALS, a rapidly progressive, neuromuscular disease for which no cure has been found. Life expectancy for victims following diagnosis is three to five years, the ALS Society of B.C. said.
In his first eight years Standewick has brought in approximately $12,000, or about $1,500 per year. That average, he noted, is not spread evenly.
“It’s a bit more in years when I do something extra-ordinary,” he said. “The year I did it up the mountain was my highest gross. Of course, I also got the B.C. Moutaineering Association calling me and saying ‘You shouldn’t do that.’
“I figure it’s better to do it and apologize later.”
That mountain round, for which Standewick used biodegradable golf balls made of compressed wood, ultimately led to the idea for this year’s ocean-based tour of the Gulf Islands.
“Once I did the mountain, I thought the dichotomy of doing something on the sea would be cool,” he said. “It’s something very coastal B.C., and a way to put a different stamp on (Golf-a-thon).”
Standewick, who attended the University of Victoria on a volleyball scholarship — “I got into golf late,” he adds — lived for eight years on Bowen Island and six more on Gabriola. He said this year’s tour will bring the Golfathon for ALS to courses which have not participated in the event previously.
He will travel with a support boat, which will carry his clubs to the islands while he paddles. While he plays his lightning rounds on Gabriola and Salt Spring, he said, the boat will tow his kayak to the south end of each island to await his arrival for the next leg of paddling.
Standewick has a personal connection to the ALS fight. The wife of one of his high school classmates was diagnosed with the disease. Also, and despite his revulsion for everything Yankees, he just finished reading Gehrig’s book, The Luckiest Man Alive, the year before the PGA of B.C. began its partnership with the ALS Society.
“That’s kind of what started it all for me,” he said. “I thought, ‘This is something I want to support.'”
To support Standewick’s effort with a donation to the ALS Society, visit golfathonforals.com and click the “donate” button.