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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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In every state, he teed it up
By BOB HARIG
Published January 11, 2007
The fact that it was a golf course, with real tees and greens, was all that mattered. Getting there was an adventure, and some strings had to be pulled to make it work out. But when Ken Hopkins putted out on the final green of an Alaskan course last summer, he knew his goal would be completed: Playing a round of golf in all 50 states.Hopkins, 70, is a part-time resident of Spring Hill who several years ago embarked on his journey to play a course in each state. He always knew Alaska would be problematic.
"I first had the idea of playing the top 100 golf courses (as ranked by Golf Digest)," said Hopkins, who lives at Timber Pines and has a home in Westlake, Ohio. "The top 100 kept changing every couple of years and it looked like I wasn't going to be able to do it. Some of those clubs were very difficult to get on, such as Cypress Point (in California). So I figured the next goal I should be able to do was all 50 states."
And yet, when he retired, Hopkins still had 14 states to go.
Playing in all 50 states
Hopkins lives eight months of the year in Florida and plays at Spring Valley Country Club in Elyria, Ohio, in the summer. To achieve his goal took some planning through family vacations.
"A couple of years ago I went to Yellowstone National Park," he said. "I hadn't played in Montana, Idaho, Utah or Wyoming. So we spent a week in Utah and Montana and I went back and forth to get in those four states. Then there was North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska. We scheduled a trip out to that part of the country, went to Mount Rushmore and played in the Dakotas."
He said his favorite U.S. course is Canterbury in Cleveland, where "I probably played 25 times over the years. I just think it's a great course." Canterbury was the site of Jack Nicklaus' 1973 PGA Championship victory. It also hosted the 1940 and 1946 U.S. Opens.
He has been to Pebble Beach three times and calls it "the most scenic course I've played."
Completing the journey
As Hopkins neared his goal, it was in the back of his mind that he would need to play a course in the 49th state, Alaska. And that would take some doing. To pull it off, he and his wife, Martha, scheduled a cruise to Alaska in June. They first flew to Washington, also a state he was missing, and arranged to play a round in Seattle.
Before boarding the cruise ship, Hopkins sought out a course in Juneau because he knew they would be there for a good part of a day. He let the folks at Mendenhall Golf Course know he was coming and booked a tee time.
The ship was supposed to dock at 1 p.m. but did not arrive until 3:45. Hopkins had met a golf professional who was giving lessons on the cruise and he arranged for Hopkins to be the first off the ship. He hailed a taxi and was on his way.
"It turned out to be a nine-hole course and it was rather primitive," Hopkins said. "The couple who ran the course, they knew what I was doing. I had brought my own clubs and was paired up with a couple of guys. It was very scenic, with the mountains and the glaciers.
"When I turned in my pull cart, they had prepared a certificate for me."
Although the journey was not yet complete, Hopkins knew the hard part was over. Later that summer, he knocked off North and South Dakota. He played in state No. 50, Nebraska, at Wild Horse Golf Club.
Hopkins is a 15-handicap who said he started playing after graduating from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in chemical engineering. He has kept a record of every round, beginning in 1970 after he had played some 50 courses, mostly in Ohio and Kentucky. And he kept them state by state. He traces his first round to a course called Reeves in Cincinnati, which he played while in college. Through 2006, by his count, he had played 514 courses, including 121 in Ohio and 93 in Florida.
By the numbers
17 The famous Road Hole he parred on his first trip to St. Andrews, Scotland. "That was a huge thrill," he said. "My caddie won a bet with the other caddies."
72 His best score, at a 6,000-yard course called Creekwood in Ohio.
81 His best round at his favorite course, Canterbury near Cleveland.
87 His best round at Southern Hills, the year before Hubert Green won the 1977 U.S. Open at the Tulsa, Okla., course.
His favorite courses
1. Canterbury (Ohio)
2. St. Andrews (Old Course), Scotland
3. Pebble Beach
4. Firestone (South)
5. Innisbrook (Copperhead), World Woods (Pine Barrens) tie.