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After 100 holes, this pair is no worse for wear

Norm Blandel, left, and Patrick Oropallo played 100 holes of golf Monday at Oak Knoll Golf Course in Ashland to raise money for veterans. Photo courtesy of Tony Yanez

A funny thing happened to Norm Blandel and Patrick Oropallo on their way to 100 holes of golf in one day at Oak Knoll Golf Course in Ashland.

The more they played, the better they performed.

The two local professionals — Blandel is a PGA master professional and Oropallo is the head pro at Oak Knoll — played for nearly 12 hours on Monday, Memorial Day, to raise money for veterans.

The proceeds they bring in will be split between the Veterans Golf Club of Southern Oregon and the PGA HOPE program in Colorado, for which Blandel is an ambassador.

Blandel, 70, and Oropallo, 39, teed off at 5:20 a.m. — “As soon as we could see with the sun coming up,” said Blandel — and finished their marathon day at 5:10 p.m., just shy of a dozen hours.

Asked how his swing held up, Oropallo said, “It survived.”

“It was interesting,” he added. “We played very well, particularly toward the end, when we played our very best. So there’s something to be said for momentum. We were hitting some good shots, making some birdies and riding that wave. It was totally opposite of what I expected. We played better as the day wore on.”

They played a variety of team formats on the nine-hole course without any breaks. And they did so while the course was open to regular play, making it a busy venue on the holiday.

Tony Yanez, the president of the Veterans Golf Club of Southern Oregon, served as a marshal and forecaddie of sorts, approaching groups the duo came upon and explaining the situation so Blandel and Oropallo could play through.

“That made it even more of a difficult challenge,” said Blandel. “But everybody just kept rooting us on instead of going, ‘Ah, what are these guys doing?’ It was a team effort, and Tony was a big part of that.”

They rode in a cart, each had a sandwich while they continued to play and drank plenty of water as the temperature climbed into the 90s.

The only glitch in their plans came in the final round, a best-ball format, where Blandel played the first nine and Oropallo the second because the latter had to duck away to tend to a work obligation.

The day began with 10 holes of Operation 36, a golf training method that encourages beginners to play from the green out: For nine holes, tee off at 25 yards from the green, and try to shoot a 36 or better. Once that score is accomplished from close range, move out to 50 yards and try again, then 100, etc.

Once they got 10 holes in, shooting 28 for nine-hole score and making a 3 on the 10th hole, Blandel and Oropallo settled into five 18-hole rounds to complete the 100.

They played a shamble next, followed by best ball, then a Chapman, back to a shamble and finally another best ball.

The team format was important, said Blandel, who served in the Marines. They leaned on each other throughout the day, just as military personnel work in concert, he said.

Their scores were nothing to scoff at, either.

In the two best balls, where each played their own ball and the best gross score on each hole was used, they shot 71 and 67 on the par-72 layout.

Both shamble scores were 67. In that format, Each player hit a tee shot, then they chose the best one and played their own ball through the hole, taking the low score.

For the Chapman, they shot another 67 — with a sizzling 7-under 29 on the back. In that format, they each hit a drive, played each other’s ball for the second shot, then chose the one they wanted and alternated in.

Regarded as a difficult format, the Chapman score stood out.

The two have played many PGA Chapman’s together, said Blandel, and have usually done well.

“But when you start shooting 29s, you’re playing with the best players that are playing the game. That was really a blessing for us to make seven birdies on the back and no bogeys.”

Counting only the scores they used for the team tally, the pair had no holes-in-one, two eagles, 29 birdies, 53 pars and 16 bogeys.

Neither was the worse for wear by Tuesday morning.

Prior to playing Monday, Blandel was up at 3 a.m. doing a stretching routine, he said, and felt better than he expected the day after.

Oropallo was fine physically, he said, other than hands that were “pretty torn up just from the grip. My body feels all right. Mentally, I could use another few hours sleep, but I came out OK.”

Holes 50 through about 70 were tough, said Oropallo, because focus waned more so than in a normal round of golf.

The variety of formats and his playing partner were especially beneficial at those times.

“It was fun,” said Oropallo, “and it was fun doing it with such a positive guy like Norm. He really kept the moment engaged.”

Having Yanez’s support, he added, “and the community members coming out, that was the best part, in my opinion, feeling that support and keeping us moving.”

Many people made donations on the spot, said Yanez.

Because of an online presence and donors across the country, the amount raised won’t be known for a while, said Blandel.

The funds that go to PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) in Colorado will be used to help buy a house for the wife and children of a fallen veteran, he said. That presentation will be next month.

Donations can still be made on the Veterans Golf Club of Southern Oregon website, sovetsgolfclub.com. Checks can also be made payable to the club and mailed to Veterans Golf Club of Southern Oregon, P.O. Box 503141, White City, OR, 97503.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or ttrower@rosebudmedia.com.