Photographer Patrick Koenig swings around the world in pursuit of a world record for relentless golfing
BRATTLEBORO, Vermont — It was a rainy Monday in early August when Patrick Koenig rolled into the Brattleboro Country Club in Vermont. It was actually a day off in Koenig’s inexorable schedule, since he was playing only the one round.
See, when you’re trying to play more golf courses in a year’s time then ever before (needing 450 to surpass the previous world record), most days you’re playing two rounds. Sometimes three. Once four, at Trump National Doral.
This particular round was No. 348, and the only stop in Vermont. BCC director of golf Mike Zaranek donned the rain gear to join in the final six holes as Koenig shot a 74 and it all went down into some kind of history book. “An excellent golf experience,” Koenig says. “The company and experience resonated more than others.”
What Koenig rolled into the club grounds in was a formidable vehicle dubbed the RGV, his recreational golf vehicle festooned with the green and white logos proclaiming the endeavor. It’s a step up from his self-financed RGV Tour 1.0 in 2018, when he quit his Chicago job in telecommunications sales to golf the lower 48 and expand his budding golf photography portfolio.
It worked. His golf photos helped him steadily build up to about 90,000 social media followers and he sold shots to Golf, Golf Digest, The Golfer’s Journal and others. One of the followers was Teemu Ruuska, the COO of Golf GameBook, a digital scorecard and social golf app. Last fall, Ruuska called Koenig and asked if he’d ever thought about doing the trip again.
"I had indeed; I was just starting to write up a business plan for it," Koenig says. "This was the first call I’d ever had from Teemu, but RGV 2.0 was created then and there. We wanted to start at the beginning of the year, which didn’t give us a lot of time to plan out such a complicated endeavor, but we went ahead with gusto."
On January 3 at Monarch Beach Golf Links in California, Koenig was pelted by a friendly volley of water balloons as he took his first shot of the tour and he has literally played every day since, including a week’s interlude in Finland and Sweden — Golf GameBook, which is footing the bill for the motorhome and travel expenses, is headquartered in Scandinavia.
After the first shot, how many more would there be, the curious might ask? Through Round 414 — his first 18 on September 15 — Koenig, a stick, was averaging 77.2 shots per round. Stretch that out over 500 rounds and you’d have 38,000 strokes on the scorecards, although in this case Koenig is recording all his rounds on the Golf GameBook app, which shows all his stats, some photos and comments from followers.
Scorecards he has, though, along with flags, poker chips, ball markers, signs and other memorabilia from the courses he’s visited bedizening the interiors surfaces of the RGV, along with a modest golf library. He has other sponsors: shoes from Ecco Golf, Breakfast Balls golf shirts from RSVLTS, and a remote-control golf trolley from Stewart Golf that Koenig affectionately calls Stewie.
Koenig is 43, medium height, lean, chatty and ebullient. He’s driven, so far, 25,000 miles, and played one stretch of 22 consecutive days in the rain, including the European interlude. That he hasn’t physically broken down may be a testament to Stewie, his general good conditioning, or perhaps the added benefit that he no longer drinks, a subject he’s quite willing to talk about, especially if there’s a chance it can help anyone else in a crisis:
"I played golf in high school in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but when I started Indiana University my focus switched to girls and beer parties," he says. "And for about seven years, I was really aggressive with my drinking. So aggressive that there was no hiding from myself that I was an alcoholic. When I stopped I had been drunk for two straight weeks. Looking back, I’m glad I was able to reach the bottom so fast."
Clearly there are worse things to be addicted to than golf, but in any case the RGV 2.0 quest isn’t solipsistic — Koenig is simultaneously raising funds for the First Tee of Greater Seattle where he lived for a time, as well as other First Tee organizations and local charities. He's raising funds from sales of RGV 2.0 memorabilia he has stashed in one of the RV’s many compartments and from donations direct to the tour’s website.
A book may well be in the offing after all is said and done. Koenig began the trip with thoughts of an ongoing blog, but he gave up on that when it became obvious that after he finished his rounds for the day and found a place to park for the night he barely had enough time to eat, shower and update his daily schedule before starting to nod off.
His itinerary is an ongoing work in progress. Future sites are only roughed out, so there’s a chance to join Koenig for a round simply by getting in touch with him or inviting him to a course if he’s not already committed elsewhere.
He’s played at munis, he’s played at the best private courses, and he seems happy at either: “The courses are fun, but it’s the people that are the most interesting," he says. He’s played solo, with friends and relatives, total strangers and golf personalities (whom he’s also done some podcasts with): Paige Spiranac and Chelsea Pezzola, former PGA Tour player Len Mattiace, writers Tom Coyne and Shane Bacon. He’s been joined at various times by his girlfriend, Rachel Alcone, who is not a golfer, "But she shows up with cakes noting Course No. 200, Course No. 250, No. 312, whatever it is."
The finale will be January 2 at Chambers Bay in Washington. Koenig’s birthday will come two days later when, he said, “I may take a victory lap and play some more golf.”