It was 7:12 p.m. when Cion Hueske walked off the ninth hole at Sweetgum executive golf course two Saturdays ago.
It was her 72nd hole of the day — a trek of 12 hours, one minute since she first teed off at Bonita Pass. And she was behind.
For the Village of Gilchrist resident, 72 holes is old news. She did that last month. Hueske set out that morning to raise the bar, though the setting sun clearly had become a hindrance to her goal — 10 courses, 90 holes.
But nine courses still would be more than last time, so she hustled up the path toward Mangrove’s first tee.
“I know they call me crazy,” Hueske said, stopping at her golf cart to retrieve the glove left behind on her previous nine. “But I always want to do more.”
An avid golfer who once ran marathons and still walks more than six miles most days, Hueske has made a summer of seeing how much she can combine the two. She walked four executive layouts in a day twice in July, but didn’t find that much of a challenge.
She began August with a six-course day. Still not enough. Then on Aug. 15, she set her personal best with eight courses. Now she was getting somewhere.
Hueske finished with daylight left, though, leaving her to wonder if she could squeeze more in. With the days starting to grow shorter, the summer’s window of opportunity was closing.
Saturday became the target. But after a possible strategic error and a more crowded afternoon than expected, she was playing catch-up as afternoon began giving way to evening.
“It’s hot and some people are too slow,” she said.
When Hueske is out by herself, the holes tick past like clockwork. She rarely takes a practice swing, teeing her ball and lining herself up quickly. She doesn’t hit the ball high — swinging with an easy rhythm that produces a line drive just above head high and almost always straight.
Her distance control sometimes surprises her, though. Even with 72 holes under her belt, several tee shots at Mangrove rolled to the back of the green.
It was 7:18 p.m. when Hueske hit her first tee shot at Mangrove, coming up short of the green. A chip and putt later, she checked off her 73rd hole. New record.
A bright orange sun was still above the treeline. Off to No. 2 at her usual brisk clip.
“When I’d play on Ladies Days,” she said, “I’d walk faster than the ladies who were riding a (golf) cart.”
Hueske three-putted No. 2, then struck a crisp 9-iron at the third hole to within 3 feet of the flagstick. This time she took a practice putting stroke, but her attempt lipped out.
A long bridge connects the third green to No. 4, and Hueske broke out in a jog. She took out her chipping iron and hit it to 20 feet; this time her putt fell in.
Though Hueske doesn’t keep score on these odysseys, she counts the birdies. She made two at Redfish Run, two more at Turtle Mound, one at Sweetgum — a chip-in from just off the green.
And she made a second birdie at Mangrove — striking from 40 feet away at No. 6, a charming hole with the green set into a small bowl. It’s 7:47 p.m.; the sun is starting to dip behind the Collier Recreation Center.
Hueske is feeling lucky now. “If I make a hole-in-one,” she quipped, “I’ll buy you as many drinks as you want.”
Alas, that was the end of the birdies. Hueske parred her way out, jogging between every shot. At No. 7, a couple out for a casual walk had to back away from the green when they spotted her standing on the tee.
On the way to No. 8, Jim Stukel drove out in his cart to catch the finish. The Village of Collier resident played with Hueske at Sweetgum and figured she might need illumination.
“She never hit a bad shot,” Stukel remarked. “She was maybe short of a green or something, but she did not hit a bad shot.”
He called out to Hueske. “How many are you going to play tomorrow?”
“I’m going to take a rest,” she said.
Stukel’s lights helped on the final green, as Hueske parred from the back of the putting surface. It was 7:58 p.m.
Hueske’s final tally: 81 holes in 12 hours, 47 minutes.
“Not really a success,” she said, alluding to her goal of 10 courses. “But I wouldn’t say a disappointment. I did try.”
Her day began with a 7:11 a.m. foursome at Bonita Pass, with a second tee time set for 9:53 at Tarpon Boil. After a quicker-than-expected nine at Bonita Pass, Hueske inquired about an earlier opening to get moving on her next round.
Not at Tarpon Boil, but there was one at Redfish Run. Hueske canceled her 9:53 and headed to Redfish Run.
That might have backfired. By the time Hueske left Redfish Run and asked about openings at Tarpon Boil, she found herself stuck behind a group that had the next hour booked solid.
After Tarpon Boil, Hueske headed over to Yankee Clipper and Southern Star. When the gentleman she teed off with at Yankee Clipper learned of her quest, he stayed with her through Southern Star and even to Sandhill.
“He did three rounds with me,” Hueske said. “That was nice of him.”
Things bogged down again at Sandhill, stuck behind some slower-playing groups. Hueske eventually finished and moved to Turtle Mound, which is when she first concluded time was no longer on her side.
“If (sunset) was 8 o’clock or 8:30, I could do it,” she lamented. “Maybe next summer.”
For someone always trying to do more, it’s really just a question of when.
Senior writer Jeff Shain can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5283.