Eighteen years ago, when he was 46, Britain’s David Steele, a former European Tour player based on the Costa del Sol for many years, performed an almost unmatched feat: he played 774 holes in a marathon 24 hours of continuous golf. Eventually, he completed 43 rounds of 18 holes at Marbella's La Dama de Noche (now Banús Executive) course, which was equipped with night lighting. The Newcastle-born golfer far exceeded the mark that had, just recently at the time, been listed as the world record for golf played in 24 hours, established at 710 holes in the The Guinness Book of Records. However, it did not beat what was considered an unofficial world record, without official certification: 783 holes.
With blistered hands, swollen knees and sore joints from the night's humidity, but a strong and sturdy body... that's how Steele ended his long game of golf on the afternoon of 5 June 2003.
He had painstakingly prepared for weeks to face the physical and mental challenge of a golfing marathon. In order to fulfill his objective, he was transported aboard a cart specially set up for the test: more potent and with a backrest that massaged his back. In addition, he was accompanied by two other support buggies.
After the first 12 hours of play, Steele had hit 399 shots and completed 23 full rounds (each round was two layouts of the course, as it is just nine holes, with par-threes, fours and fives). The round that took the least time lasted 27 minutes, an average of a minute and a half per hole. The average time per 18-hole round was approximately 30 minutes for the whole 24-hour golfing marathon.
The funds raised during this competition against time went to the Spanish Fight Against Cancer Association, the Cudeca Association (for palliative care) and the University of Málaga’s Cancer Research Unit.
The estimated amount raised from the marathon and other charity tournaments organised with the same objective totalled €64,000, plus an additional €8,000 raised at an auction of golf products. It should also be noted that Jaime Ortiz Patiño, the founder and then president of Valderrama, and the European Tour each donated €15 per hole completed by Steele, which added a further 23,220 to the total.
Previous to his marathon effort at La Dama de Noche, which attracted great media coverage, the English golfer had already starred in another magnificent charity effort, on that occasion (1993) at San Roque Club (his current club) with the aim of buying an ambulance for the town of Guadiaro. He played 18 rounds in a row and a total of 315 holes (he was nine holes short of completing the 18th round), his best round being 69 strokes – and the fastest, 45 minutes.
Now, 18 years after his 24 hours of golf in Marbella, Steele plans to return to the marathon challenge, although this time – his age, 64, weighs somewhat heavier – he will not try to break the world record. On 7 June, his new challenge will be at the El Higueral course in Benahavís (Costa del Sol), again for charitable purposes. A tournament is also planned to be held at San Roque Club, with the objective of raising funds for cancer research and the Centro Contigo in La Línea, which cares for young people facing the risk of social exclusion.
“The director at El Higueral (and also at Marbella Club Golf Resort), Rod Bastard, has been a great friend of mine for many years,” says Steele. “ I spoke to him and he thought it was perfect that I do it here.”
The challenge consists of playing 14 hours in a row, from 7.30 in the morning to 9.30 at night, and trying to play 18 rounds of 18 holes. He estimates that it could take about three minutes for each hole. "I've been preparing for this for a long time, but I’m 64 years old and I don't have the same vitality as when I did the 24-hour marathon."
His objective – together with the charity tournament at San Roque Club – is to raise €50,000. "That’s my plan, and I hope it comes true.”
What is clear is that this tireless sportsman with a wonderful heart is not lacking in enthusiasm – to help those who need it most.