Round and Round He Goes

April 16, 2006

Get the scissors,cut this out and stick it in your wallet. Seriously. This is going to come inhandy. Next time your wife yells, "You're playing golf, AGAIN?" youjust hand her this.

John Furin played572 rounds of golf last year. Five hundred and seventy-two rounds. And not inPhoenix or San Diego or Bora-Bora. In Hibbing, Minn.! On a course that's openonly from the end of April to the beginning of October. That's not even sixmonths.

That's ... wait... that's almost 100 rounds a month! That's more than three rounds a day!Ninety miles from the Canadian border!

This 64-year-oldretired butcher is the Mr. Blister of golf. According to the USGA's handicapservice, nobody in America turned in more scores last year. Furin officiallysubmitted only 503 of his rounds--still 96 more than anybody else--because thecomputer at his course shut down on Oct. 15 but, like a spinning hubcap, hejust kept going round and round.

One day last yearhe played 108 holes. Plenty of days he goes five rounds. And if it's a fullmoon, he'll play at night. He put 2,300 miles on his cart last season. Changedits oil 11 times. Has the course's sprinkler schedule memorized.

Hey, John, youmarried?

"No,divorced," he says.

Imagine that.

But he does havea girlfriend. "My friends think I'm nuts," says Alice Greski, 60, anursing assistant who's dated him for 29 years now. "When he retired, hesaid he wanted to play a lot of golf. It's his dream. I'd never stop him fromthat. I see too many people who don't get to live the life they want."

Furin, whoretired four years ago, plays seven days a week most of the summer. He startshis day at the semiprivate, par-72 Mesaba Country Club (Kevin McHale belongsthere) at 3:30 every morning, which, in the spring, means playing the first 12or so holes before the sun comes up. ("That's my favorite time toplay," he says.) Fluorescent balls and headlights on his cart help, butalso "that's when he hits it the straightest," says Mesaba head proGary Yeager. "When the sun comes up, it starts to go a little morecrooked."

It can befreezing, too, but that doesn't stop Furin, who sets two gas heaters in hisgolf cart, fills the passenger seat with bags of fruit, nuts and candy, andgets to it.

The man istougher than a $2.99 T-bone. But then, his dad played every day till he was 94.His mom worked until 92.

He plays thatfirst round in about an hour and a half, so he's back in time for his daily 6a.m. round with his pal Rob Pearson. Each in his own cart, the two are donewith round 2 in less than two hours. Yeah, yeah, they putt everything out.Furin's a strict rules guy. His handicap fluctuates between six and eight.

"What he'sdoing is an incredible feat of endurance," Pearson says. "Maybe not ofintelligence, but endurance for sure."

Furin is back intime to join his 8 a.m. group, three afternoon-shift miners, for round 3.They're done around noon, in time for his 12:30 game with the night-shiftminers (round 4). Lunch in the clubhouse? Hah! "I don't got time to berunning in there," he says. Then he hustles back in time for his 5 p.m.game (5) with the day-job slobs.

When you figureyearly dues are $1,100, that works out to $1.92 a round. And he makes up forthat by finding balls all day long. He's got 13,000 at his house.

Anyway, he plantsthe last flag at about 9 p.m. (still light in Hibbing), stops by Alice's for abite, home to read one of the four golf magazines he subscribes to, then lightsout. Big day tomorrow. Playing golf.

"I getnauseated watching him go round and round," says Yeager. "I don't knowhow he cannot possibly hate the game."

Do you, John?

"No way!"he says. "I love it more every day. See, when I first retired, I said, 'I'mgonna spend the summer on the golf course. That's gonna be my gift to myself.'And I couldn't get enough of it. I'm shootin' for 600 this year."

There is only onetrue sorrow in his life, and there's not a damn thing he can do about it.Tuesday. Ladies' day. Can't play from 8 a.m. till noon.

"Ah, it's allright, I guess," he shrugs. "I gotta cut the grass some time."

Furin's worriedI'm going to make him sound crazy in this column, but this is a guy who's losta friend in the mines, who had a health scare awhile back and who spent 30years cutting up cows. All day on the golf course doesn't sound so crazy.

After all, whodoesn't like getting a gift every day?

• If you have acomment for Rick Reilly, send it to reilly@siletters.com.

RIFFS of REILLY

Exclusively on Verizon Wireless V CAST and SI.com.

"When I first retired, I said, 'I'm gonna spendthe summer on the golf course. That'll be my gift to myself.' I couldn't getenough of it. I'm shootin' for 600 rounds this year."

PHOTOPETER READ MILLER

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)