24 hours of mini-golf: The quartet who crushed a world record to raise money for Kentucky flood victims
Their game was no different to the countless others being played across the globe that day, except for one not so miniature difference: it didn’t finish until the following morning.
Pausing for nothing but the occasional short break, father-son duo Chris and Cole Hetzel, Tony Centers, and Bob Schoettinger powered through 2,097 holes of their beloved 18-hole local course to smash the existing record by 657.
The idea had begun as a joke with a passing comment by course owner Kevin Shea during one of its weekly tournaments last October. Yet it wasn’t a joke without basis, as the Hetzels happen to be a duo with serious pedigree for world-record-breaking endurance efforts in niche sports.
In June 2020, the Hetzel home garden in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, was transformed into a wiffleball field for an 11-player, 30-hour-and-one-minute marathon match of the baseball-like game. The following May, the pair went a minute further in setting a Guinness World Record for the longest marathon playing four square at 30 hours and two minutes.
To say Chris and Cole had caught the bug was an understatement. When their wiffleball record was pipped by 17 minutes, they reassembled a team and took back the crown in emphatic style, setting an eye-watering new benchmark just shy of 36 and a half hours.
“I think it’s safe to say we have an addiction to these endurance events at this point,” Cole, a cross-country athlete at DePauw University in Indiana, told CNN.
“There’s nothing like doing the same thing for a whole day straight. It’s a fun time.”
Naturally then, after Cole tracked down the existing record of 1,440 mini-golf holes set in Germany in 2005, it didn’t take long for a joke to turn into a fully-fledged application. The process was no small task given Guinness’ notoriously strict and extensive guidelines, but with the paperwork eventually filed, July 31 was circled as the big day.
All that was left was to set the stage and complete the team. Putt-Putt’s Shea took the reins on the former, organizing taco, ice cream and cookie trucks, a live DJ and a host of other festivities to draw support and transform the center into Erlanger “neighborhood” for 24 hours.
Fundraising for the organization proved the “big picture highlight” for Schoettinger, who has previously volunteered with the group. Having raised almost $3,000 directly, Schoettinger added that M25M had informed him of a “tremendous surge” in donations around the time of the event.
“I understand first-hand how tremendous the help is that they give and what a great organization they are,” he said. “What better tie in for a world record attempt than a world-reaching charitable organization?”
Poetry in motion
The Hetzels were familiar with Centers and Schoettinger from the weekly tournaments, but their decision to draft them into the team was not sentimental. Centers was a mini-golf sharpshooter with a penchant for hole-in-ones, while Schoettinger, with a background in bicycle racing, would serve as the team’s strategic and emotional anchor.
“The primary skills we were looking for included the ability to consistently knock down aces, stamina, and a positive attitude,” Chris said.
“There were more guys to choose from, but we picked the team that we knew were all fast and could make it through the 24 hours,” Cole added.
After setting off at 8 a.m., the quartet blitzed towards the existing record. Their ferocious pace was aided by Shea and volunteers, who were on hand to keep score and provide much-needed refreshments as temperatures peaked around 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius).
“It’s important to make sure you’re eating in a 24-hour endurance event,” Schoettinger said. “It’s no different than a bicycle race or running race — it just happens to be a Guinness World Record race in this case.”
“We were like a well-oiled machine, it just looked like poetry in motion,” added Centers, who settled into a remarkable rhythm of his own with a group-best 897 hole-in-ones.
Hitting the wall
At 10:45 p.m., Schoettinger tapped in to clinch the world record, much to the delight of the loyal crowd who had stayed out to support the group. There was time for a quick group hug and a celebratory glass of champagne, but with over nine hours left to extend the record, business was far from over.
“There wasn’t a question about whether we were going to pass the record,” Chris said. “It’s a question of stamina — how much longer can we do it and push ourselves?”
Despite hitting the wall of inevitable fatigue in those early morning hours, Schoettinger rolled home to sink the 3,197th hole-in-one with the 14,664th and final stroke at the ninth hole — twenty seconds shy of 8 a.m., and 24 hours after the first putt.
“I don’t think we could have picked a better team; we just went out there and clicked, had fun and enjoyed seeing everybody that came out and supported us,” Centers said.
“It was a day that we can sit back years down the road, dwell on and be able to tell our stories about a pretty awesome thing.”
For now though, all eyes will now be on the annual Guinness World Record book, set to release in mid-September. Having never before made it in, the duo are hopeful of seeing their latest feat in print among the globe’s myriad of wacky and wonderful accomplishments.
“We’re not in the book yet because we don’t have long fingernails and we’re not tall,” Chris joked. “I think this one’s got a good chance of being in there.”