NI man's 2,000km golfing odyssey across Mongolia nears final hole
A rugby player from Northern Ireland attempting to smash a world record by golfing 2,000km across Mongolia has spoken of his excitement days before reaching the finish line of the epic challenge.
Adam Rolston (28), who grew up in both Hong Kong and Coleraine, and has represented Hong Kong in the oval ball game, is completing the world's longest round of golf with South African 'caddie' Ron Rutland (43).
Moving from west to east, the duo set out from Mongolia's highest peak Khuiten on June 29, battling harsh snowy weather at first followed by the punishing 40C heat of the Gobi Desert.
Along the way they even adopted a dog, named UB after Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, and the location of the Mt Bogd Golf Club where the challenge will end on Saturday at the 18th hole.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph from their evening campsite, the hardy duo said the charity fundraising endeavour had surpassed all expectations.
As of yesterday the challenge had lasted 77 days with a total score of 19,723 strokes.
They had covered 1,929.8km and had 70.2km left to go.
"I can't actually believe we're in this situation," said Adam.
"For nearly 80 days we've crossed the desert, the mountains and these vast wildernesses and you never expect that finish line will come because you're so far away."
Taking more than 19,000 golf swings so far, over 200 a day, the attritional nature of the challenge has caused agony for Adam's neck in recent days, resulting in muscle spasms in his back when trying to sleep.
Ron, too, has struggled with injury, having undergone a hip operation last year.
"The hardest part of the trip was the start at Mongolia's highest peak," said Adam. "It was a four-hour drive followed by a five-hour trek with camels carrying our clubs.
"When we finally got to the top it started snowing, so we were miserably wet. It was really tough. Your shoes are soaked, you're putting the tent up and down in the rain, you think: 'I promised so many people I would do this'. But I don't how I can.
"Thankfully we made up for lost time and we're here now."
Ron said he had relished the adventure despite enduring constant pain in his hip, dragging a large cart full of equipment the whole time and being in "the hardest country in the world to stay vegan in". He added: "We keep saying to each other: 'Can you believe we've just walked across all of Outer Mongolia?'".
Ron said that the greatest experience had been the unfailing kindness of ordinary people. "The first thing people do is to offer us food, water and shelter in their tents," he explained.
"This is people who have no idea where South Africa and Northern Ireland is, who see these two foreigners with a dog and just open their hearts."
Friends and family are due to camp with Adam and Ron tomorrow night, playing the final 15km with them towards a heroes' welcome at Mt Bogd Golf Club.
Funds will go towards Laureus Sport for Good, which supports 100 projects in 40 countries to use sport to end violence, discrimination and disadvantage, and the South African Golf Development Board.