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How will Bernard Lagat fare at World Speedgolf Championships?

Sep 24, 2013, 1:12 PM EDT

Bernard Lagat Getty Images

Bernard Lagat‘s season didn’t end with the Fifth Avenue Mile on Sunday.

No, the four-time Olympian has one more major international competition left — the World Speedgolf Championships.

Lagat and Fifth Avenue Mile winner Nick Willis, an Olympic silver medalist from New Zealand, are among the entrants at the Oct. 26-27 event in Bandon, Ore.

What is speedgolf?

Let speedgolfinternational.com explain:

Speedgolf is pretty much just what it sounds like; golf played at a very fast pace. Competitors play 9 or 18 holes and run between shots. Scores are calculated by adding the time taken to complete the round and the total strokes taken. For instance, if a competitor shoots a golf score of 80 and it takes 60 minutes to complete their round, their Speedgolf score (SGS) would be 140 (80 + 60).

Competitors generally carry 5-6 clubs in a small bag, wear athletic golf attire, put on their running shoes and they are ready to go.

The only real differences from traditional golf are the flagstick is left in when putting and lost balls are dropped anywhere on the line of flight of the previous shot with a one-shot penalty.

The 2012 world champion, Chris Walker, carded a 77 and a 76 in times of 53 minutes, 29 seconds and 56:59 for a total of 263:28 and an $18,000 grand prize.

Lagat doesn’t have a registered golf handicap, and his personal best is an 89 in five years of playing. Lagat will have to rely on his speed, which is, of course, world class. A course is usually about four miles long, and Lagat’s personal best in the 5,000 meters (3.12 miles) is 12:53.60.

“I’m just going to go there and enjoy it,” Lagat, 38, told Spikes magazine, adding that he’d like to see Michael Phelps give it a shot. “If I get a round of 90 and I run 40 mins I think I’ll be very competitive. The winners of these events are very good athletes, but they are also very good golfers who can hit 71 or 72 shots. To play that consistently and run that fast is unbelievable. For me, a very good day is to hit under 90.”

The world record 109:06, a round of 65 in 44:06 in 2005.

Willis, with a nine handicap, “could be a threat to win,” Speedgolf International executive director Tim Scott told the (Eugene, Ore.) Register-GuardJ.J. Killeen, who played 33 tournaments on the PGA Tour in 2012, is among the best golfers expected to compete.

This isn’t the first time a noted distance runner has ventured into speedgolf. Steve Scott, who ran a record 136 sub-4-minute miles in the 1970s and 1980s, played an 18-hole round in 29:33 in 1982, carding a 95.

Willis has said he learned about speedgolf from Scott’s Wikipedia page.

“Oxygen debt is a bit of an issue, so you have to run slightly within yourself,” Willis told Runner’s World. “The key is to be comfortable not taking long to set up your shot and swing. I have never been one to take practice swings anyway, so I haven’t had to alter my game too much.”

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