If you’re a golfer– especially one of the “bucket list” ilk– I want you to list off a few of your golden aspirations within the game. To walk the hallowed grounds of Augusta National? What about crossing the famed Swilcan Bridge at St. Andrews? Maybe your dream is to meet a few of the all-time legends of the game?
Steve Rathman of Birdsboro, PA, accomplished one of those life-long “bucket list” achievements last week.
He’s played golf in all 50 states in the U.S.
Rathman’s journey came to a close south of Valentine, Nebraska at The Prairie Club, one of the top destination golf resorts in the nation. It was a expedition that took him some 20 years to complete.
“I wanted to see every state,” said a reflective Rathman. “I figured, this was a great way to do it.”
Theoretically, the venture started some 49 years ago when Rathman’s affinity for the game was born. He lives west of Philadelphia in the small, aforementioned, town of Birdsboro, a town of only 5,000. Pennsylvania was the first state he checked off. From there, work and business travels moved him throughout the nation.
Where Steve went, so did Steve’s clubs.
“It became the #1 thing on my bucket list, to play in all 50 states,” explained Rathman. “So when I retired, I started focusing on it more.”
The goal become concrete somewhere in 1995 or 1996 and when he made it to Alaska to play golf in 2000, he figured he “had the hard one out of the way.”
He’s played 548 different golf courses in his life and he has them all logged into a journal he’s kept over the years. He has all of the courses except one. A course he played long ago, but couldn’t quite remember the name. So we’ll give him credit for 547. Not too shabby.
Rathman only heard of The Prairie Club a few weeks ago while traveling through the state of Nebraska working to complete his feat. He was getting an oil change in North Platte, NE where he “got talking to a guy” in some form of devine intervention.
“I was trying originally to get on Sand Hills Golf Club, but when that didn’t happen, I got talking to a guy at a Jiffy Lube and he told me about the course south of Valentine and that it was definitely worth the trip. I have to agree, it was worth the trip.”
He finished on the Graham Marsh designed Pines Course (the 75th ranked Public course in the nation, according to Golf Digest) and their iconic 18th green. It was then, another sense of devine intervention took place.
“I hit my tee shot [from the green tees] down the fairway and I had 200 yards into the green,” explained Rathman of the final hole of his quest. “I called my buddy from my phone in the middle of the fairway, I told him where I was and I said, ‘I didn’t come this whole way to lay up!’ then I hung up.
Sure enough, I took out my 7-wood and I chunked it into the canyon short of the green. I said, ‘geez Steve, don’t finish with a double.’ I hit my next shot over the green.”
This is where the story takes a turn toward destiny.
“I got up and saw I had a chip and I tell you what, I’m the worst chipper in the world. I told my wife to come up and take a picture of me as I finished. She did. Then I turned around and chipped it in for par.
Maybe I’m the second worst chipper in the world.”
All 50 states in the U.S. with a chip in on his last green.
It’s a pretty cool feat for an guy from Pennsylvania who said in jest, “I was never famous and always wanted to be.” He’s a normal guy with normal golfing friends. He just made golfing around the United States a goal of his– a goal he was able to achieve on June 2, 2015.
Rathman even offered some advice to the hopeful golf vagabond.
“If you ever have the chance, Troy,” he told me over the phone, “play golf in Alaska at midnight. It’s light at midnight and it’s one thing I wasn’t able to do.”
It’s advice I hope to adhere to at some point in my golfing career, advice I heard from a man who’s seen the nation by playing golf.
Do you dream of playing golf in every state?