IF you were playing golf in East Lothian recently, you may have glimpsed the bounding figure of Peter Mackenzie darting about on the links.
As he careered down the fairways with tremendous haste, you could’ve been forgiven for thinking he’d just pinched a set of clubs from the pro shop and was making a dash for it.
This dash was all above board, of course, and was part of Mackenzie’s epic charity challenge to raise funds for Breast Cancer UK.
The 45-year-old, who is a professional at Sale in Cheshire and has a strong Scottish heritage, played seven courses in one day, covered some 30 miles and clattered 553 shots.
Funnily enough, that’s about the same number of blows this scribe racked up at The Herald sports desk’s 36- hole Summer Salver.
The PGA pro can be many things. Industrious, inventive, inspiring. They can also be pretty intrepid too and Mackenzie’s golfing gallop was certainly that.
Taking in the three courses at Gullane, as well as Longniddry, Craigielaw and the Fidra and Dirleton at Archerfield Links, Mackenzie embraced his crusade with great gusto. He put in the hard yards too.
“I’d been walking about 20 to 25 miles a day as part of my training for it,” he said. After his dedicated, disciplined preparation, Mackenzie, whose late father was from Inverness, took it all in his stride.
In fact, his stride was so brisk he completed his quest well ahead of schedule. “It went better than expected,” he added. “I had five rounds tucked under my belt before midday. I wasn’t supposed to be teeing-off at Craigielaw until 12:50pm but I’d actually finished there before 12.
“When I was at Longniddry, I phoned in to Craigielaw to let them know I was ahead of schedule. This was about 9:30am. They thought I was just finishing my first round but I was finishing my fourth. When I got to Craigielaw, it was like the parting of the sea on every hole. People playing in front of me just stood aside and let me through.”
Driven on by a cause very close to his heart – his mum, Jean, had treatment for breast cancer a year ago – Mackenzie got his golfing odyssey teedup-and-running just after 4am.
“I was finished the three courses at Gullane by 8am,” he said of a series of rampaging rounds that could’ve got him a speeding ticket from the local constabulary.
“I was averaging one hour 25 minutes for each round. “At Gullane, the first four holes were in the dark and the longest club I hit for those first four holes was a 9-iron. I only took six clubs anyway and no woods. My 2-iron was working nicely so I put that in the bag alongside a 7-iron, a 9-iron, a couple of wedges and a putter.”
Playing at a running pace, while relying on sheer golfing instinct, Mackenzie chalked off the holes at a furious rate. “As daylight came and I started getting warmed up, the scoring improved too and I went 92, 78 and 69 at the three Gullane courses,” he said.
“Overall, I averaged 79 which is not bad considering you’re just running round and hitting it. “The hardest part is putting. You just run onto the green and hit it. You’re not really looking at a line. So, there were quite a few three or four putts. On the whole, though, it was good. Sometimes, the less time you have to think about it, the easier it is.”
There’s a golfing lesson in there for all of us. Mackenzie’s admirable endeavours didn’t just raise funds “My heart rate rose to 160 beats per minute,” he said of the effects of the exertion.
As for the calorie count? Well, he didn’t just burn them off, he incinerated them. “We worked through 9,500 calories,” he added after a marathon voyage which has raised almost £7000 and is still gaining donations.
The great Jack Nicklaus once suggested that, “golfers have a tendency to be very masochistic.” Mackenzie will probably agree with that particular observation as he eyes another charity venture.
“I want to do something more sadistic next year,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m thinking of a bigger, week-long challenge next time, so watch this space.”