HALF MOON BAY (KPIX) – Call former A’s outfielder Eric Byrnes a Renaissance man – he’s transformed himself from big leaguer to endurance athlete and now he’s added a new wrinkle: speed golf.
Byrnes is attempting to set the world record for most holes played in a 24-hour period.
“It’ll be well over 8,000 feet of elevation,” Byrnes said from outside Half Moon Bay Golf Links, the hilly course where he’s trying to pull it off. “It’s gonna take over 100 miles too.”
It’s far from the leisurely “walk” that attracts so many to the game, but Byrnes isn’t the conformist type. He’s hoping to break the old mark of 401 holes played in 24-hours set in 1971 by Australian Ian Colston. It’s a pace that few weekend hackers can fathom because Byrnes is capable of playing a full 18-hole round in well under an hour.
“I remember him coming home once saying, ‘I just played 18 holes in 48 minutes,’” said Tarah Byrnes, Eric’s wife. “My first reaction was, ‘You can never tell me it takes five hours to play a round of golf again.’”
Which means there’s more time for the couple to run their Let Them Play Foundation which was established to help give kids the means to be active and play sports. Byrnes is hoping his grueling day on the links will help raise awareness and funds.
Byrnes has a golf bag and electric cart in his Half Moon Bay garage, but he chooses only to carry an 8-iron from a women’s set to attempt the record. Anything more would add unnecessary weight.
The swing isn’t exactly textbook either – he uses what he calls “polo style” to get the job done.
“I think we all need to find our strengths in life,” he said. “I found out my strength is to hit a ball on the run.”
Running is the only thing Byrnes has known since he retired from baseball in 2010. He’s lost nearly 40 pounds on his way to becoming a legitimate triathlete.
“I couldn’t make it across the pool when I first started training for a triathlon,” he said. “The only bike I had ever owned was a beach cruiser and I had never run more than four miles.”
Byrnes can now run four miles in his sleep. Last year he trekked 846 miles on foot from Chicago to New York on top of the 2,344 miles he biked from San Francisco to Chicago. It was a challenge he cooked up to launch his foundation.
The trip across the country puts his 11 ironman races to shame which are a mere 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike ride plus a marathon. And Byrnes believes his post-baseball career outlet nearly cost him his life when it all began.
“In my first triathlon I almost died in the water,” he said. “I thought I was drowning for sure, and then I was getting passed by 16-year-old girls on the bike.”
It was a humbling moment made possible by his triathlete friends.
“I thanked them,” he said. “I told them it was the last time they were ever going to beat me.”
Byrnes is a little unsure if he can beat the 24-hour golf record especially after the sun goes down in Half Moon Bay. He broke the 12-hour record last summer in Napa and played an astounding 245 holes, but he didn’t have to deal with Adarkness.
The staff is planning to light parts of the course, and Byrnes will use glow in the dark balls. And if you’re thinking the faster he plays, the worse his score becomes, think again.
“I played a round at Sharon Heights in 41 minutes with one club and shot 103,” he said. “Two days later I played Spyglass in five and a half hours with a full bag and shot a 103.”
Byrnes could only shrug his shoulders.