Dataw Island's Chris Fearn endures elements to support veterans

Chris Fearn
Chris Fearn Submitted photo

Though Chris Fearn had been dodging raindrops all day, the really hard stuff didn't come down until more than 11 hours into his endeavor.

"It poured for about 30 minutes straight," said the Dataw Island assistant pro. "Just one of those dead-on downpours. Unbelievable."

Slowed but unbowed, Fearn pressed on for another 90 minutes Monday until daylight gave out at Dataw's Morgan River course. His final tally: 13 hours, 156 holes and more than $16,000 in pledges secured for the Green Beret Foundation.

"I think we would have gotten a lot more in if it wasn't raining and it wasn't cart-paths only," Fearn said. "But my goal was 150 and I got 156, so I'm happy with it."

Fearn's total topped the 135 holes he played a year ago, part of Dataw Island's annual Veterans Week celebration. His quest began in the predawn darkness Monday, teeing off with glow-in-the-dark balls at 4:30 a.m. Rain was coming down then, and let up for only the occasional brief respite.

With the ground already saturated by rain earlier in the week, Fearn had to keep his golf cart on the paved paths. "I had to run to my ball, then run back to the cart path," he said. "That went on all day."

The wet conditions also limited Fearn's ability to cash in bonus pledges for birdies and eagles. He tallied 19 birdies on the day, plus an eagle.

"I was making birdies in the beginning," he said, "but I didn't make hardly any at the end because it was raining so hard."

Perhaps Fearn could have solicited an alternative pledge for number of gloves soaked during the course of his day. He went through seven golf gloves, plus two sets of rain gloves.

"They're drying out right now in the pro shop, along with my clubs," he quipped. Despite soreness in his left hip and lower back, he was back on the course Tuesday, hitting tee shots for ladies' groups that make a $20 donation for veterans.

Tuesday's Purple Heart Golf Classic drew more than 200 golfers, including 30 wounded veterans from across the country.

"It started off as a small men's day activity, and now it's a Classic," quipped Glenn Blackburn, a retired U.S. Army colonel who launched the venture eight years ago. Recipients now include the OnCourse Foundation, the Folds of Honor Foundation, the National Military Order of the Purple Heart, and the Wounded Warrior Project.

“I am blown away by all the support given by this community," he added. "It is wonderful to see people embrace this event. I feel humbled to be a part of it and to have been able to watch it grow.”

Among those in attendance Tuesday were members of the U.S. team at this summer's Simpson Cup, a Ryder Cup-style competition pitting U.S. servicemen injured in combat against their counterparts from Great Britain. The OnCourse Foundation manages the competition.

The U.S. squad, with Fearn serving as swing coach, came up short in this year's clash, 9 1/2 to 8 1/2 amid blustery conditions at Royal St. George's in England. The second day was marked by sideways rain, pushed by wind gusts up to 35 mph.

"I've never played in that type of weather," said Steve Ogletree, the U.S. team's vice captain. "Now I know what the pros go through."