|Ulaan Baatar Post - Thursday, July 17, 2003
One man hits a ball across Mongolia
By Chris Ayling [reprinted with permission of author]
MONGOLIA SEEMS to attract a certain breed of foreigner, and those who love the country share certain characteristics - a pioneer attitude, a lot of patience, a tough posterior, a love of spontaneity and an appreciation for the absurd. Summer has brought many tourists and travelers to the country, among them some interesting individuals on interesting missions.
One such man is Andre Tolme, who has decided to turn Mongolia into a giant 18-hole golf course, the distance between each hole measuring 140km. The Mongolian steppe may seem perfect for golf, but when you consider the clumps of grass, the marmot holes, the hidden rocks and ditches, the idea of going for a quiet Sunday game of golf doesn't seem quite so simple. Apart from those factors, consider the size of the country and the inaccessibility of most areas. Tolme's idea of hitting a golf ball from the eastern side of the country to the west begins to sound like some extended form of torture. Either that or a huge physical challenge. Golfers are not particularly renowned for their adventurous spirit, so Tolme obviously has a pioneering attitude and hopefully, a large reserve of patience.
Tolme first came to Mongolia in September 2001, and has been traveling almost continuously through Asia and Australasia since then. He started playing golf at the age of ten, and although he is not a professional golfer, he says he loves the game because it is mixture of technique and concentration, and that 'no matter how good you are, you can always get better'. His trip across Mongolia combines his two great loves - golf and travel.
Ulaanbaatar is hole number six on the trip, and it took Tolme five weeks to reach the capital, coming on foot from Choibalsan. He walked the first three holes, carrying his own clubs, balls, water and tent. After enduring this trek, he bought a metal cart, which he dragged all the way to UB. He spontaneously donated the cart to a family on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, no doubt sick of the sight of it. He is now looking for a Mongolian traveling companion with a horse and cart, a camel or a jeep.
Through this trip to Mongolia, Tolme hopes to raise international awareness about Mongolia and the problems faced by the country. He will be updating his website - www.golfmongolia.com - from aimag centres, keeping readers up to date with how many balls he has lost (186 so far - donations welcome) and describing his encounters with wolves, electric storms and country veterinarians. Individual and private company sponsors from the US are supporting the first-ever 'adventure golf' expedition in Mongolia.
Tolme plans to reach the final hole in Dund-Us in October. His handicap is 15.