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'Hitting the wall' is worth it in golf-a-thon

Sixteen golfers raise several thousand dollars for kids programs in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Golf-a-thon at Sherman Hills Golf Club.

By CAREY FREEMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 20, 2000


BROOKSVILLE -- The term is used to describe that point in an athletic endeavor when the body nearly shuts down, when mind and body become locked in a struggle for control.

It's called "hitting the wall."

When the body wins the fight, the athlete loses. But for those who have learned to overcome the aches, pains and exhaustion, the rewards can be very beneficial. Athletes who have learned to break through the wall often describe what follows as euphoria, a feeling of vigor and well-being that often leads to superior results.

Just about every athlete in every sport experiences some version of hitting the wall. It is a way of life in sports like running, triathlons and swimming. Even basketball, tennis and football players can experience it.

But golf?

For Dr. Michael Bennett of Lecanto, it happened somewhere in the middle of his 108-hole round in last Thursday's Fellowship of Christian Athletes Golf-a-thon at Sherman Hills Golf Club..

No, that is not a misprint. Bennett completed six consecutive rounds in a single day, earning nearly $2,000 for his favorite charity.

"Man, it was brutal," said Bennett, who braved high humidity and temperatures in the low 90s throughout the day. "It was real hot, but I completed all 108 holes. I hit the wall about the middle of the third round, but I came out of it and after that it was absolute euphoria.

"It was like gorilla golf. You start out like normal, then you start to get fatigued and worn down and maybe even start talking to yourself. But then you emerge from the crowd, and after that is was like the club was an extension of my arm. In the last three rounds, I had 12 birdie putts. I probably shot the best round of my life.

"Going in, I figured there was no way I would be able to raise ($1,500). I only had, maybe, $300 or $400 raised, so I turned it over to the Lord and said, "This is all (up to) you.' Next thing I knew, it was just rolling in. Every time I turned around someone was handing me a check. These people just really believe in the FCA."

Bennett could not confirm whether he indeed shot his best round ever. Seems his mind was focused elsewhere -- like the cause he was playing for.

This is the second consecutive year Bennett has accomplished the feat, and he was one of only a handful of golfers who completed all six rounds Thursday. Yet while others may have pulled up short of the goal, the combined effort of all 16 golfers made sure the FCA would come out as the biggest winner.

Created five years ago by regional FCA representative Larry Quigley, who represents Citrus, Hernando, Pasco and Sumter counties, the event was able to raise more than $10,000 for the FCA this year.

"A lot of it goes to send kids to summer camps, and we have a leadership camp at St. Simons Island, Ga., we send a lot of kids in the area where they'll learn to be better leaders in school and in church," Quigley said. "FCA has been doing it around the nation for several years and this is the fifth year we've done it. For a guy who likes to play golf, it's a deal. You can play all day and try to raise some money.

"We ask them to raise at least $1,500 apiece. Dr. Bennett, he'll do it every year because he's that kind of a guy. He was grinding it out (Thursday), but he was going to get 108 in no matter what it took.

"He knows the ministry works and he does a lot at Lecanto. In most cases, FCA is the only ministry in school that helps kids to be a good influence on those around them. But it's not only the kids, but coaches and teachers too. My ministry is mostly coaches and teachers and they in turn reach out to the kids."

Even the most avid golfers would be hard-pressed to complete six rounds in a single day -- and do it in the middle of a Florida summer -- yet Bennett pushed on because of his devotion to the cause.

"It's not easy to do, but this is for the kids," said Bennett, who also serves as the physician for Lecanto's sports teams. "I know who benefits and I am playing 108 because that's what I was committed to playing. It's definitely a test of your mental, emotional and physical strength."

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