Hiker Spotlight: Ben Sims
Tell us a bit about yourself
I grew up in a small rural town west of Atlanta, GA. It was a normal childhood of baseball, Boy Scouts, you know, typical small town America. I lived there my entire life before going to college at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Other than my parents, I owe almost everything to my 4 years at the academy. I started playing golf there, gained lifelong brothers, and got on track to live my dream of flying jets. And since graduation in 2004, that’s what I have been doing, flying. Right now I am a Captain in the Air Force with over 2000 hours in three airframes. I have flown both the C-17 Globemaster and the T-6 Texan II during three different combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
From a golf perspective, I have been playing for 10 years and I hang out around an 11-13 handicap. I always enjoyed the game, but I didn’t get the “bug” until relatively recent times. I blame golf courses themselves for the obsession. My main interest in golf is traveling and studying great golf architecture. I’ve had several experiences that have allowed me to understand golf courses better, and I am always looking for new ones.
How did you find out about the Hundred Hole Hike?
I was an excited onlooker to my good friend Jim Colton’s hike last year for Ben Cox. One day Jim and I were talking on the phone about an idea he had to start a non-profit organization where people would walk golf holes all over the country the same way he did. I grabbed on with both hands and told him I would do whatever I could. Right now, I think all of us are just trying to grasp the magnitude of what is happening. It has certainly been a humbling experience to see how this has all come about.
What's the most holes you've ever walked in a day?
I have three separate 45-hole days under my belt. One was at Ballyneal in Colorado, another at Bandon Dunes Resort (Old Macdonald, Bandon Trails, and 9 on Pacific Dunes), and one at my home course at Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken, SC. It is overwhelming to know that my goal is 100+ more holes than the most I’ve ever walked in one day.
Wait…your goal is over 145 holes?
Oh yeah. I figure if a tall, gangly, financial analyst can walk 155 holes in one day, I can. I also have some outsize calf muscles that have been compared to the legendary calves of architect Tom Doak. Add those two things together and I think I have impetus for 150 holes as my goal.
What's the significance of T1F as your chosen cause?
As a C-17 pilot, we flew many missions involving the transport of either Wounded or Killed-In-Action personnel from the theater of operations. I have always felt that our country owes these men and women and their families a great debt for their sacrifice. Troops First designs initiatives for these individuals that support the wellness and quality of life through sports-based initiatives. On top of these incredibly cool sports-based initiatives that involve professional athletes, coaches and one rather significant golf commentator (co-founder David Feherty), T1F also sponsors Operation Proper Exit. Proper Exit is a program designed to allow wounded warriors to return to the theater and re-visit the place where they made their sacrifice to our nation. From the perspective of a mobility pilot that took soldiers away from battle in a way they surely didn’t want to leave, it appeals to me that I can help them exit the theater on their own terms, with a sense of closure and honor. T1F has been very generous to allow me to designate 100% of my pledges to Operation Proper Exit.
Any specific training and preparation for your event at Laughlin? Any special support you're getting to help on that day?
No, should I be? (laughs) In all seriousness, I haven’t done nearly as much as I should to get ready. I have studied the sunrise/sunset tables to get a feel for how long I’ll be on the course and I have done a test “walk” to get a better sense of how long it will take to get around. I bought a few new pairs of True Linkswear shoes. But from a physical perspective, I’ll just lean on whatever working out I do for my Air Force fitness test this month. It’s probably going to come down to hydration and keeping my feet happy.
I also have a sneaky plan to get some of the commanders here at Laughlin Air Force Base to carry my bag for a round. Though I don’t know how easy it will be to convince a Colonel to caddy for a Captain!
You got the opportunity to work on the grounds crew at the Masters this year. That had to help those Doak-sized calf muscles some. I know it’s not Hike-related, but anything you want to share from that experience?
Well, you might not think it was hike related, but I took away a lot of intel from that week that I can use for the hike. I walked Augusta National twice a day for a week, and there was also many ancillary duties during play that kept me walking. So the big takeaway? Make taking care of your feet near the top of the list of priorities.
But outside of that, it was a surreal experience. The superintendent at ANGC, Brad Owen, gave me a tremendous opportunity to come to The Masters and gain experience on the premier turf operation in the world. In all of my years of military experience I have never experienced precision and perfection on that level. It's hard to describe honestly, but it was very emotional for me as a native Georgian. The whole experience was an honor. It was very impressive and I look forward to returning as many years as they'll have me.
Click here to support Ben Sims and his Hundred Hole Hike for Troops First Foundation
Kingsley Club is a private golf course designed by Mike DeVries near Traverse City, MI.