Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, on the rugged Oregon coast, is only about 20 miles south of Coos Bay, home of the late, legendary runner Steve Prefontaine.
That geographic proximity may not have been relevant until now.
Tomorrow and Sunday, Bandon Dunes will play host to the Speedgolf World Championships, in which Nick Willis—the 2008 Olympic silver medalist at 1500 meters from New Zealand and two-time winner of the NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile Presented by Nissan—is among the favorites.
On November 2, the day before the ING New York City Marathon, Willis will also be among the top contenders in the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5K.
“The speedgolf rounds will certainly help get me back into the competition mindset before NYC, whereas many of my competitors will be feeling a little rusty after a break following the track season, Willis wrote in an e-mail this morning from Oregon. “The rounds will be like running hard fartlek workouts, so should help me if there are any sudden changes of pace in the race.”
In Speedgolf, the competitors play nine or 18 holes and run between shots. Scores are calculated by adding the time taken to complete each round to the total strokes taken.
Tim Scott, the executive director of Speedgolf International, has said that Willis, with a nine handicap, is a threat to win the event. “He hits the ball straight,” he told the Bandon World.
Willis said that during a practice round yesterday, he shanked a few shots before he adjusted to the traditional links, which are drier than the parkland courses he is used to playing on near Ann Arbor, MI, where he lives, and shot a “respectable 82.”
“One practice shot and I have learned a lot already,” he reported. “[I] have now switched my club selections for the tournament, and will play a lot more along the ground and roll the ball up to the holes rather than [put them] in the air trying to land them on the green.”
Also competing in the championships is Bernard Lagat, the two-time Olympic medalist at 1500 meters who won the Fifth Avenue Mile in 2011 and this year finished as runner-up to Willis.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg