Awesome 8: Father, son take on golf's toughest trek
It's the first day of the midnight sun at the Lakselv Banak North Cape golf course, a modest 9-hole layout cut out along the shoreline of Norway's Porsanger fjord.
Two solitary figures, Jeremiah and Bret Dandoy, are dressed warmly, including wool caps, and they carry mats along with their clubs to protect and preserve the tundra, which has yet to fill in for the summer.
It's a good day to play golf.
So it went for a Utah father and his son, who from May 2-19 completed the Awesome 8 Golf Challenge, an exhibition of extreme golf that includes the hottest, coldest, lowest and highest courses in the world. It also features the most northerly and southerly and the greatest.
The best memory, according to Bret Dandoy, was spending two weeks with his dad.
In 18 days, the duo traveled more than 50,000 miles, spent 100 hours in airports and less than 30 hours playing golf.
The Dandoys had to pack heavy coats for Alaska and sunblock for Death Valley. They probably could have used oxygen while trekking to the extremely elevated tee boxes in Boliva.
The rain soaked them in Scotland, and throughout the trip winds played havoc with golf shots. There were those 80-yard putts on the huge greens of St. Andrews.
But they never lost a bag while in transit, and did the whole trip without any other major travel mishaps.
"It went so smoothly that I have no real complaints," said Bret Dandoy, a 48-year-old who works for Deutsche Bank in Tokyo, one of three Dandoy children. "But that said, I would not do it again as of now. In a few months that view might change. â¦ We knew the purpose of this trip was different."
Technically, the Dandoys must return to Fairbanks, Alaska, and complete the North Star course. There was too much snow to play May 9.
"It was disappointing ," said Jeremiah Dandoy, a 78-year-old retired Utah transplant who splits time between Salt Lake City and St. George. "[Bret's] figured out he can go back the last couple weeks of September.
"It was grueling, sometimes tiring," he added. "I don't think I'd do it again for a couple years. It was just fun and I was glad at my age I was in good enough health to do it."
The Awesome 8 was the creation of Robin Sieger and Neil Laughton, two British golf crazies who wanted to bump the excitement level of their beloved game. So, they sought the most extreme courses but those with established membership lists and set out to go around the world in 18 days.
The Dandoys began with The Toughest, Ko'olau, Hawaii. They followed with The Highest, La Paz, Bolivia, 10,350 feet above sea level; followed by The Most Southerly, Ushuaia, Argentina, near Tierra del Fuego.
Then came The Coldest, North Star, Alaska; The Lowest, Furnace Creek, Calif., 214 feet below sea level; The Greatest, St. Andrews, Scotland, (no explanation needed); The Most Northerly, North Cape, Norway; and The Hottest, Alice Springs, Australia, where golfers meet kangaroos and 120-degree temperatures while playing the Outback.
"Until it was over, I didn't think we could pull it off," Bret Dandoy said, thinking about his father, who became ill in Bolivia, but fortunately recovered. "While we had plenty of time to think and talk about it, we were always tired and just trying to get that day in and plan for the next."
That the duo did not have a canceled flight or travel troubles in some of these tough-to-get-to areas was a bit of a minor miracle.
"That's what really sticks in my mind," Jeremiah Dandoy said. "We were able to do the schedule in small pieces and the whole trip fell into place. If we would have missed one of those flights in South America, it would have wiped out the whole trip."
The venture took a year to plan. The cost included two $12,000 Star Alliance Round-the-World tickets. Lodging, food, rental cars and local flights came to $3,000. The shortest stay was eight hours in Alaska.
The sweetest moment, however, came on the final hole when Jeremiah drained a 25-foot putt in the shadow of Australia's Ayers Rock to end the trip.
"I hugged him on the 18th green," Bret said. "'We did it.'
"I guess it was really about doing something unique together and this happened to be it."
Awesome 8 Golf Challenge
The Most Northerly • North Cap, Norway
The Coldest • North Star, Alaska
The Highest • La Paz, Bolivia
The Most Southerly • Ushuaia, Argentina
The Greatest • St. Andrews, Scotland
The Lowest • Furnace Creek, Calif.
The Toughest • Ko'olau, Hawaii
The Hottest • Alice Springs, Australia
Airline tickets • $12,000 (each)
Food, lodging, rental cars • $3,000
Shortest stay • Alaska, 8 hours
Hours in airport • 100
Hours playing golf • Less than 30
Golf balls lost • 2 dozen