The Happy Golfer

Waking up to snow, playing where the buffalo roam
June 8, 2009, 3:09 pm
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After playing 36 holes last Tuesday, I took some travel time and spent part of a day soaking in a hot tub in Hot Springs, South Dakota. Driving through this beautiful part of the country, I stopped in Custer City and then Deadwood to check out the casinos. The parking lots were filled with cars from all over, including a certain Winnebago View with California plates! I played Sweetwater Golf Course in South Dakota where I met the golf manager, Don Groll. He told me: “Camp in our parking lot, then play first thing in the morning.” Don, who’s also a high school boys’ and girls’ golf coach, drew some maps for me and told me to play Pheasant Country Club course, where head pro Kirby Robb listened to my story and said: “There’s a cart; follow those two guys ahead of you to the first tee.” And the beat goes on….

I spent the night in Beach, North Dakota, on the Montana border. It snowed all night! I must say, waking up to a blanket of snow did not put an immediate smile on the face of The Happy Golfer. Being a Southern Californian, I didn’t have an ice scraper for the windshield, so I used a “kootala,” that’s Greek for large spoon, from the pantry. When the weather cleared the next morning, I played 36 holes while herds of buffalo roamed by. I even rescued a stray calf that had wandered onto the wrong side of the fence. I’m seven days ahead of schedule. Out of nine days off, I played seven of them, and have now completed 43 states – only five states left. I’m 255 miles from Billings. In Dickinson, Andrew from NBC TV filmed me playing the first three holes; he said it will air on Wednesday night. If anyone sees an online link to the story, send it this way and we will post it!

 I am looking for things to do on the way to Billings. Since I’m way ahead of schedule, I attended an outdoor concert honoring our 26th president, Teddy Roosevelt. Afterwards, there was a chuckwagon barbecue – no microwave pizza tonight! I camped out at a rest stop, along with 40 18-wheelers and 20 other RVs. Snug as a bug.

 At 8:29 a.m. on Saturday, I was on my way to Billings. On Friday, I woke up on the Heart River at 5:30 a.m. and played front nine with pro Jeremy, and the back nine with his dad, Cliff. What a great course! The back nine runs along the Heart River, which had flooded over in February. Kathy in the pro shop comped me golf and a cart. I played 18 holes with Aaron, a golf management student at the University  of Nebraska. I’m just passing the Yellowstone River, driving west on the Custer Trail.  Westward Ho! Keep happy – The Happy Golfer.


A surprise visitor is coming on June 13!
June 5, 2009, 5:17 pm
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After visiting more than 40 states, some places might start to look like a blur, but not for The Happy Golfer. He was pretty sure he had arrived in Nebraska, because everyone was wearing red shirts that said “Go Big Red!”

Nick has played golf with seniors, juniors, veterans, men, women, beginners, pros and sometimes only geese. He shares his energy and enthusiasm for life and the game with all, and regardless of where he goes, Nick is makes fast friends with just about everyone. His wife, Fran, a retired teacher, told him to encourage the younger golfers he meets to focus on their report cards as much as their scorecards. And so he does. He shares energy bars and stories, and gives away the many lost golf balls he’s collected during his rounds to young players. The Happy Golfer leaves everyone who hears his story, well, happy. He marvels at the beauty and diversity of the country and the generosity of pros and courses who have offered to let him camp overnight in their parking lots. Many have given him complimentary green fees, lunch or a cool one after the round. He makes people smile, and in turn, people offer advice, swing tips and amazing support – constant reminders of why this is the adventure of a lifetime.

On Tuesday, Nick put a check mark next to Wyoming; another 36 holes in a single day. June 2 was the 42nd state in this adventure and The Happy Golfer finished the last five holes in rain and a cold, blowing wind, so the Callaway rain gear came in handy. Special thanks to Rob for the interview in Torrington, and to Eddi in the pro shop. She asked him how many of his Callaway golf balls he lost on the narrow, tree-filled back side. The answer: None!

He is WAY ahead of schedule, having played 36 holes 18 times. He has taken seven days off and is 11 days ahead of his original plan. While he originally set aside six travel/visit/unplanned days, his rate of play leaves him with five days where he’ll be looking for something to do. He’ was considering a trip to see Mount Rushmore and, enter Mystery Guest No. 2!

Nick will have a surprise visitor on June 13 in Billings, Montana. Stay tuned to hear who it is … In the meantime, here is another nice news story on The Happy Golfer:

Press across the U.S.
June 3, 2009, 2:31 pm
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I had a wonderful stay in Chicago with cousins Sophie and Leo – lunch at Rocks, George and Tammy’s great new place. The Memorial Day BBQ at cousin George’s, fabulous golf at Turnberry Country Club, playing with George Manta … what a layout! A huge thanks to PGA pro Jami Brighty for golf, lunch and setting up the Channel 5 TV interview with Paula Farris. (Her husband, John, missed a hole-in-one by 2 inches on hole No. 8!) 

I played in Wisconsin, where pro Al comped the green fees and pull cart; it had rained and the greens were wet. Thanks also, Al, for the cap; I’ll wear it on my home course in San Clemente. As I was leaving the parking lot in Racine, Wisconsin, “Kinky Dynks,” who have played together every Tuesday for 40 years, handed me a cool one and wished me well. Thanks Lee, their main man. 

I played 36 holes in two states on May 27. Rain, again, so I donned my Callaway rain gear, opened the umbrella, and wiped off my glasses (they needed windshield wipers, it was so blustery) and then I was off again. Keep happy, The Happy Golfer.

The Happy Golfer has been featured in some wonderful newspaper and TV stories during his travels; here are links to a recent few. Do you know of other stories about him in your area? Send us a link and send your wishes to The Happy Golfer!

NBC Chicago:

The Herald-Mail:

The Times-Herald of Forrest City, Arkansas:

Video at

Pocono News:


Worthington Daily Globe:

The Grand Rapids Press:

Inspiring time with war veterans is an honor for The Happy Golfer
May 24, 2009, 6:04 pm
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I had a great stay in Ohio, thanks to Pete and Annette. There is nothing like a large, comfortable bed, a warm, roomy shower with scented soap and shampoo for the little hair I have left, and great Greek food. Thanks to Gus at the Chalet; the egg-lemon soup was the best I have tasted in a long time, not to be outdone by the lamb sandwich. I played golf with Pete and his Greek friends four out of five days in the rubber capital city of the world, Akron, Ohio. Also, I had an oil change for the Mothership and put on six new tires. Can somebody remind me to clean the inside one of these next few days?

Ohio was state 33; if you multiply that times two rounds in each state, it equals 66 rounds, plus four rounds played on my off days, which equals 70 rounds in 59 days. Twelve of those days I played 36 holes in one day. The next state is Michigan. Two rounds, two different courses, one day. After that, two rounds at two courses in one day in Indiana, then on to Chicago on Thursday Night. Then a Friday round at Ruth Lake Country Club; my thanks to Callaway Professional Mark Labiak.

While I was playing hole #5, I noticed the women club members, The Swing Club Ladies, were hosting war veterans on the course for a few holes. It was a perfect time for me to help out with Ralph, whose shirt said Louisville, and a young man named Thomas, whose cap had the Notre Dame logo. Thomas used to be a 7 handicap and I am sure Ralph was not far behind. We hit some good shots, some average shots, and some bad shots, but that is what golf does to you. The company was Great , the weather was Great, the Swing Club Ladies were Great, and that is all with a Capitol  “G’!

They insisted that I stay for lunch, and for me to be at that golf course, at that time, with those wonderful war veterans and the great Swing Club Ladies, it is surely the highlight  of my golf journey. Thank you Ruth Lake; thank you Swing Club, and thank you United States war veterans. It was my honor to be in your presence.  It’s not like any of us are going to go on the Pro Tour; however golf is the common denominator and all of us will occasionally hit that shot that makes you come back. Today Ralph and Thomas and the rest of the war veterans played like Tiger Woods.  And that makes The Happy Golfer very, very happy.

An update from Nick
May 13, 2009, 10:59 pm
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Yesterday I played Orchard Creek in New York as a single; I played 36 holes in one day in two different states! As of today, I have played in 31 states, 64 rounds in 53 days on the road. Eleven times I played 36 holes in a day. Pretty good for a 73-year-old.

Last night, I headed to Afton Golf Course in N.Y., where Guy, the pro, comped me dinner, beer, camping and golf this morning. Such great hospitality there! I didn’t arrive until 8 p.m., but they waited for me. Thanks, also, to Shelby. What a gorgeous course, cut right out of a mountain.

This morning I played in a tournament there – I had to – couldn’t tee off until after 9 a.m.because the greens were frozen. They can only play six months out of the year because of weather conditions. Boy, are we spoiled in California. My partners were: Henry, 78, an Armenian fellow whose sister is married to a Greek; Dominic, an Italian, also 78; and Fred, a Czech, who is 92. I was the baby of the bunch! I managed to shoot an 80, with one birdie. My putting should have been better to shoot a 75. Afterwards, there was a great BBQ, with lots of golf talk. All in all, a wonderful day with wonderful people. I remain the Happy Golfer.

Wish Nick Happy Birthday!
May 9, 2009, 3:28 pm
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The Happy Golf is just full of news on the East Coast, and it’s his 73rd birthday today!

Friday marked the halfway point, in terms of distance, in his adventure. He’s was the farthest from California that he will be. Maine is his 28th state; he has driven 6,810 miles, played 58 rounds – he is even playing on his “days off.” The last three courses had him camp out in their parking lots, thanks to gracious pros, so he could get off and running with an early tee time.

Nick will be interviewed for the York Weekly publication in New Hampshire on Mother’s Day. We’ll post a link if the story is available online.

Send your Happy Birthday wishes to The Happy Golfer in the comments section below, and keep happy!

Happy Birthday to the Happy Golfer May 9
May 8, 2009, 3:13 pm
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Nick Karnazes, The Happy Golfer, is more than halfway to his goal of playing 96 rounds in 96 days in 48 states. He is in Maine today and tomorrow, and he’ll head on to New Hampshire on Sunday. This Tuesday, while playing a round at Brookmeadow Country Club in Canton, Massachusetts, he was interviewed by Boston’s FOX Channel 25. We’ll keep an eye out for a story link and post it when it becomes available. Have you seen The Happy Golfer on TV in your area? Send us a link and we’ll post it here.

This Saturday, May 9, marks The Happy Golfer’s 73rd birthday. Please join family and friends in wishing him another year of great health, great golf and great happiness! You can send your wishes to the comments section of the blog – his wife, Fran, reads him the messages every evening when he calls.

Nick, Fran and Callaway send their thoughts and kindest wishes to those affected by the California wildfires, as well as those heroes battling the fires.