Most bets between golf buddies involve just 18 holes. But two Maryland men decided to go a bit further than that—900 holes, in fact. Their wager: become the first one to play a top-10 course in all 50 states. Last month, Duston Mersinger and Rick Broderick finally completed their 35-year quest with an intriguing result.
The two lifelong friends picked up the game of golf while caddying at a local private club when they were just teenagers. They’ve been enjoying the game together ever since, playing many matches and tournaments over the years. One day, Mersinger came up with the ultimate competition: see who could be the first to play a top course in every state in the nation. With the help of the pro at their home course, Piney Branch Golf Club, they began their quixotic quest.
“When we first started, we were in competition with each other,” says Mersinger. During a vacation with his wife to visit friends in New England, Broderick knocked six states off his list. But that was a rare occurrence. “It was two, occasionally three states [a year]. And that’s why it took us so long,” says Broderick.
The idea of playing in all 50 states was sparked back in the 1980s. At first, they wanted to play Golf Digest’s top 100 courses, but decided it was “too much of a moving target” because the list changes biannually. So Mersinger came up with the idea of playing one of the magazine’s top 10 courses in each state.
Despite the competition, the two friends did play twelve states together. A six-handicap player, Broderick’s greatest round was a 66 at The Norman Course at Barefoot Resort in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina when he was playing with Mersinger. “The best experience I had was watching Rick shoot that 66,” says Mersinger. “That sounds gratuitous, but it’s the truth. It was really neat. Sixty-six is 66.”
Says Broderick with a shrug: “I was kinda in a zone that day.”
Their voyage has taken them to several well-known courses, including Pinehurst No. 2, Pebble Beach, Pine Valley, Olympic, and The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. Their two favorite courses are Merion in Pennsylvania and Riviera Country Club in California. “Two very classic courses,” says Broderick. “We’re kinda sticklers for classic courses. Some of the new courses are really nice, but the old classics are just tough to beat.”
A few years ago and with only a handful of courses to cross off their lists, they agreed to stop the competition and finish the task together. The one state they both hadn’t played a course in yet was Kansas, so they decided then to make Prairie Dunes Country Club their final one, which they did on June 20th.
But they had a problem. Whoever holed out first on 18 would technically finish first. “So we both chipped up to the green, walked up to the pin, looked at each other, and simultaneously said, ‘That’s good,’ then shook hands,” says Mersinger. “So we both finished the task at the same exact instant.”
A tie never felt so good.