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In celebration of the Kurinji flower that blooms every 12 years in India, John Mabry and I planned and almost executed our quest to play all 81 holes of public golf courses in Lincoln this summer.

Sure, that's why we played.

In 2006, Mabry, the former Lincoln Journal Star sports editor, and I, the former sports writing hack, completed the task in a little over 17 hours.

Golf was good. Companionship was great. The trek became a greater story every time we told it.

This year, thunderstorms cut the journey short at 63 holes in 13 hours.

Let's start with the courses. All four 18-hole courses were in great shape.

You can play Mahoney in a little over two hours, with a cart and nobody in front of you. We even sped through Highlands in a little over two and a half hours and Pioneers in just over three hours – with human traffic. The final nine – the front at Holmes, before league play, took one hour and 10 minutes, and we shot 42 and 43, respectively.

Greens nice and quick. Tuesday is a good day to play because they've all been rolled recently. Rains have greened up the fairways and thickened the darned rough.

The trees at Mahoney are bigger and less forgiving than ever. The par 4, 8th hole, is one of the hardest holes in the Midwest. The gorse at Highlands is thick and hides Nikes and Precepts. The pond takes your ball to the watery grave. The trees at Pioneers are hungry to eat Titleists and Bridgestones, and there is still no air on the No. 2 green, the No. 3 hole, and the pond on No. 4 is deeper than ever. Don't forget the seemingly 895-yard par 4, uphill, into-the-wind No. 15. The hills and trees and sand make you grab every club in the bag at Holmes. And ninth hole is still the toughest par 3 in the galaxy.

The highlight might have been the other golfers.

There was the threesome at Mahoney at 6 a.m. that ignored the thunderstorms and started drinking pitchers of red beer.

The female twosome at Highlands on our 30th hole of the day who laughed at my explanation of our goal to play 81 holes in a day.

"Good luck with that, playing behind us," one woman said just before teeing off and not realizing we were serious. Of course, they were behind three sets of very slow-playing men.

Thanks to thunderstorms, we started late – 6:35 a.m. at Mahoney, and finished early, 6:30 p.m., at the Ager Junior course.

Joe Canny, pro at the Ager course, kept checking his official PGA radar screen and kept our spirits up. He has built a strong program for junior golfers and a series of winter programs to introduce golf to those who might never step on a course.

The much younger Mabry, now development director at the Lincoln Food Bank, and the much older me, now an engineer-conductor at the Lincoln Children's Zoo, battled all day.

Mabry used the old trick of using names of famous Cardinals – Lou Brock, Yadier Molina – on the scorecard to psyche me out. I tried Gabby Hartnett and Ernie Banks to counter.

Still, he won easily, 307-314, reversing the outcome from 2006, when the Journal Star paid for our time and the city covered the golf costs and let us go with cart fees only.

(Thanks to city golf director Wade Foreman, Mahoney pro John Bishop, Highlands' Denis Vontz, Pioneers' Tim Rowland and Holmes' Scott Carlson, who welcomed us with a cart near the parking lot and names on the cart.)

Mabry had the shot of the day when, after announcing "I need to get this close" on our final hole at Highlands, he chipped in from 30 feet to shoot a 38 on the back nine for a birdie. He also had the only birdies of the day – on the short but unfair No. 17 and unfair par 4 No. 5 at Highlands.

I thought I had him cold at Mahoney, our first round, when I parred four of the treacherous par 3s. But my string of triple bogeys and his steady play with the irons gave him a monster lead after our third round of the day – at Pioneers.

In 12 years from now, when the Kurinji blooms again, I'll be 112 years old and Mabry will be 36, or something like that.

And we'll play again. Hope to see you out there.


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