Joe Hooks had June 29, 2022 circled on his calendar for months. “My friend Roger Steele, Youth on Course Ambassador, asked me to play in his band for the 100 hole trek, so I wanted to make sure I was available.”
Hooks is 29 years old mini tower player from Detroit, Michigan. “I want help making golf a reality for kids like me,” said Hooks, who is African American. “That’s why I support Youth in progress. They are an immediate and concrete solution to remove the cost barrier. And that’s a big problem in communities of color. Through Youth on Course, kids can play golf for just $5 at more than 1,800 courses across the country.
Youth on Course collected over $650,000 to date this year as part of the 100 Hole Hike initiative thanks to golfers who commit to playing 100 holes of golf, on foot, at 11 venues across the United States. Hooks teamed up with Steele’s HIPE team, alongside Rory Blacklroy, Aaron Ross and Keith Lally, at Sweetens Cove in rural South Pittsburg, Tennessee. For the unfamiliar, Sweetens Cove is a nine-hole golf course dreamscape. The HIPE team would play the course 11 times (plus one extra hole) to get their 100-hole quota. The hooks would play them in an incredible 44 under par.
“Roger’s flight is delayed so there are only four of us departing on the 9th at 5am,” Hooks said. “We also had our Sherpa Ryan Hardenbrook, who is a member of Sweetens, keeping score and taking care of us.” The hooks opened with an easy par on the par-3 9th. He birdied his second hole, the par-5 1st hole. From there, things get a bit fuzzy. “The start of the round, I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit of a blur,” Hooks recalled. “Probably because of the important events that happened four hours into the day.”
Around 9 a.m., the first significant event occurred. Hooks came on the par-5 1st hole for the third time. He took the driver out. “I beat that drive bro. That record went to almost 350,” Hooks said. “I was in the fairway, I had a little 7 iron left and I was done. It was crazy, mate. Mad.”
Crazy is one way of saying it. Roger Steele, who had just arrived at Sweetens Cove after travel delays, said: ‘The first thing I heard when I got out of the car was them screaming. Hooks had never done an albatross before. He would have been happy if that had been the highlight of the day. But there would be more. Much, much more.
Starting with the albatross, Hooks would run off like no other. “At that point, I just started going absolutely crazy,” said Hooks, who is one of the players featured in the Fire Pit Collective’s “The Grind” docuseries. “I felt like I could land every shot.” He made an eagle two holes after the albatross. “As you can imagine, I really felt like myself, for lack of a better word.”
Feeling figuratively, Hooks came on the 125-yard 4th hole at Sweetens Cove. He succeeded. Of course he did, didn’t he? Why not. In a 12-hole stretch, Hooks would do an albatross, an eagle, and a hole in one. All in the name of charity. The HIPE team was, indeed, HYPE.
In a day that started at 5 a.m. and ended just after 7:30 p.m., Joe Hooks played 100 holes. He walked them all in temperatures close to 90 degrees. He made a total of four bogeys. He never made a double bogey. He carded three eagles. The albatross and the ace you already know. Amazingly, he never birdied the 7th hole in 11 tries. Teammate Rory Blacklroy, however, made the eagle on 7. I asked Hooks if any of his teammates were close to matching his ridiculous score. “No,” he said without hesitation. “Rory was doing too many bogeys.”
In the end, the HIPE team of Hooks and Roger Steele raised over $50,000 for Youth on Course. Thanks to their efforts and the work of people from Pebble Beach in Palm Beach, children will be able to play golf for only $5. It’s not too late to donate if you want to help break down barriers for kids who want to play golf.