The Good Sport
by Michael Meagher
If Forrest Gump had been handed a golf club he may
have chased a little white ball around American golf
courses until he grew a beard and set a few records
on the way. But even the indefatigable Gump would have
had trouble keeping up with the frenetic pace of Australian
marathon golfer Gary “Smokey” Dawson.
For more than 12 years Dawson had literally run around
courses and on the way earned more than $2 million for
charities – mainly for children suffering from
Dawson’s golfing horizons grew and grew, until
a week of golf in Sydney produced 67 rounds of golf
at an average of just seven over par.
No one quite believes him but Dawson says enough’s
enough. Once he putts in after a 24-hour fundraiser,
for the annual Channel Seven telethon in Western Australia
on June 6 and 7, Dawson says he’s putting the
marathons behind him. The Foundation, Bear Cottage,
the Children’s Cancer Institute and the Women
and Infants Research Foundation in Western Australia
won’t be happy with the decision. They’ll
be hoping for some sort of comeback.
The chase began for Dawson in 1988 when he played 288
holes of golf at his home base at Northbridge Golf Club
in Sydney, helping to raise money for a work colleague
whose husband had broken his neck. Twelve months later
it was 530 holes in 48 hours, a fundraiser for Australia’s
In 1992 it was 607 holes in three days and three nights.
This time the charity was bear Cottage, the hospice
for terminally ill children. Before he hit off Dawson
met up with six-year-old cancer patient Meaghan. A day
and a half into the marathon, with Dawson suffering
from fatigue and blistered feet, they met again.
As the young girl thanked him on behalf of the other
children at the Cottage, Dawson wiped away tears. “Meaghan
broke my heart. She died six months after the event
and I thought that while I was fit this wasn’t
a bad thing to be doing with my life,” he says.
It was time for Dawson to lift the pace. In a week
of golf at Northbridge in 1995 he completed 1180 holes
including a hole in one at hole 776 – on the law
of averages it probably would not have been fair if
he hadn’t notched one.
For the last four years Dawson had featured in 24-hour
fundraisers at the Burswood Park Golf Course in Perth.
That’s 125 kilometres on the hoof in temperatures
of more than 50 degrees Celsius.
Golfers who break out the magnums of Moet when they
total less than 100, or even 90, should consider that
Dawson’s best over 24 hours (of which some 16
hours is spent at a jog) is 343 holes at an average
score of just 71. The quickest of those “sprints”
was 41 minutes, when his total was one over par.
Charity is lucky Dawson is partial to exercise. His
speedometer has registered close to 100 triathlons and
before each golf event he trains three to four hours
a day. Is he fit? There was the time business associates
were astounded when he met them at the top of Mount
Wellington in Hobart for a business meeting. While his
colleagues took a bus, Dawson ran the 26 kilometres
to the top.
Although this may be the last of the marathons, Dawson’s
new venture Bullant Sports a corporate Golf business
that is linked to charities, means he’s still
“A lot of people have heard about the bloke who
runs around fold courses for charity,” he says.
“Some of them think I’m a little crazy but
the whole point is to inspire people to care –
to get up and do things.”