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Whistler Couple Give New Meaning To Breaking 100

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

Doug and Janet O’Mara really didn’t set out to play golf in 100 different countries. It kind of just happened.

The Whistler couple love to travel and are also avid golfers. After a number of different trips to all corners of the globe, it suddenly occurred to them that they had played a lot of golf in a lot of different places. So they started counting.

“We went back and started keeping track of where we have played and how many countries it had been,” Doug says. “We only count them if we played together and visited the country together. And we realized we had played in 40-odd countries.”

That’s when they began toying with the idea of trying to make it to the century mark. Unlike most golfers who are trying to stay on the good side of 100, the O’Maras were determined to get to triple digits. It finally happened earlier this spring when they knocked off country No. 100 by playing a round deep in the Amazon rainforest in Manaus, Brazil.

It’s been quite the journey, one filled with memories of so much more than just golf shots. “We have played everything from top 100 in the world to the most local nine-hole course you can imagine,” Doug says. “Golf is different in every single country. It’s not necessarily the way we know it in North America.”


“It has been fabulous,” Janet adds. “Ever since we started counting courses it has been so much fun. It has been a fabulous way to enhance our world travels, put it that way.” As you would imagine, there are certain rounds that stick out.

Janet remembers their round in the Malawi. The southeastern Africa country is not exactly a golfing hotbed, but its president apparently enjoys the game. “The courses there were built years and years ago by the colonists and not kept up well, but when we arrived to play we had to wait several hours because the president of Malawi was on the course,” Janet says.

“It was the Lilongwe Golf Club and Lilongwe is the capital of Malawi, so when the president decides to play with his entourage, everything stops.”

They decided to do something special for No. 70 on their list and travelled to Iceland to play golf at midnight on the longest day of the year. “We rented a motor home and drove around and played a number of courses in Iceland,” Doug says.

“On this particular day on June 21 we were in a place called Husavik in northern Iceland. It’s a local nine-hole golf course, we had spent the day whale watching and looking for puffins, and went up there at 11 o’clock at night. So we go into the clubhouse and we are sitting there having a drink and there’s about three tables in the clubhouse, it’s tiny, tiny, tiny, and this guy comes up to us and says, 'sorry to ask, but why are you people here?'

“So we told him that it was country No. 70 and we were waiting for midnight to tee off because it’s still light in Iceland at that time of year. And the guy said I happen to be the local member of Parliament and the club captain here and can I play with you. So he came and played with us and we were featured in the golf club’s newsletter.”

As much as they enjoyed playing some of world’s top-rated courses, Janet and Doug say some of their most memorable rounds were played at smaller, out-of-the-way tracks. One of Doug’s favourite stories occurred at Westport Golf Club near Greymouth on the south island of New Zealand.


The O’Maras were travelling with another couple in camper vans and stopped to play a round. “There was nobody there in the clubhouse, we were the only vehicles in the parking lot, and there’s a box there saying enjoy your round, put the money in the honour box. So we do that and the golf course turns out to be just fantastic. I don’t know who designed it, but it was a real gem of a golf course built in 1905.”

The clubhouse was open when they finished their rounds and they went inside where they met the general manager. “He asked us how we liked the course and we told him how much we loved it, so much so that we wanted to play it again tomorrow morning before we move on. He said, 'I presume those are your campers in the parking lot?'

So he said, 'I will just leave the clubhouse open for you tonight and you guys can use the locker rooms and the showers before you play in the morning and before you move on.' There’s a bit of New Zealand hospitality for you.”

Many of their rounds were played in South and Central America, where the O’Maras teed it up in every country other than Venezuela. At La Paz in Bolivia, they played a course touted as the highest — nearly 4,000 metres — in the world. “And they don’t have carts,” Doug says. “You have to walk.”

They didn’t always take their own clubs on trips and relied on rental sets. That proved to be a problem in the South American country of Guyana. They were playing a nine-hole course in Georgetown, which only had one rental set when they arrived. “Janet says I’d like to play, too, so the guy goes just a minute and hops on a bicycle, comes back 10 minutes later dragging a trolley and a set of clubs,” Doug says. “That course was $8 each.”

Doug and Janet, both 73, are better than average players. Doug’s a six handicap, while Janet is a 16. Both are longtime members at Big Sky Golf Club in Pemberton. Janet remembers her first experience playing with a caddie at Prestwick Golf Course in Scotland.

“I got this old guy who went through my bag and threw out my comb and some other stuff I had and put his mickey of whatever in there,” she says. “He was so funny. They watch your swing and on the third hole I said, do you think I can get there with my 5-wood, and he looked at me dead serious and goes, ‘eventually.’ Things like that you just never forget.”

Now that they have knocked country No. 100 off their list, the O’Maras plan to start working on their second 100. “There is no finish line as you get into your 70s,” Doug says. “If you keep moving, they can’t catch you.”