August 16, 2013

Golfer’s cross-country journey confirms that God and life are good

Luke Bielawski hits his final shot at Kiawah Island, S.C., on Aug. 10. (Submitted photo)

Luke Bielawski hits his final shot at Kiawah Island, S.C., on Aug. 10. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

It was the easiest and most memorable shot that Luke Bielawski would take during his 93 days of hitting golf balls across the United States from California to South Carolina.

Gripping a 6-iron, the 24-year-old Bielawski stood over the golf ball on the beach in front of the clubhouse of The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in South Carolina on Aug. 10.

“There was nothing to aim for but a big body of water,” he said with a laugh, recalling his shot into the Atlantic Ocean with an environmentally friendly golf ball that’s supposed to eventually become fish food.

“It was like another shot, but what really made it special were all the friends and family members being there with me. There were about 30 in total. My 91-year-old great-aunt made a 12-hour ride from Louisville to be there for my last shot. That was very humbling.”

As the golf ball plopped into the Atlantic, Bielawski ended his three-month cross-country adventure—a journey he made in hopes of raising at least $100,000 to help youths receive a Catholic education at Providence Cristo Rey High School in Indianapolis, a college preparatory school that combines academics with a work-study program for its students from mostly low-income backgrounds.

“The trip solidified how good life is, and that God is good,” said Bielawski, a 2007 graduate of Cathedral High School in Indianapolis and a member of Holy Spirit at Geist Parish in Fishers, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese. “I met a lot of great people. It solidified my belief that we have to live every day as our last—to meet new people and do new things every day.”

During an interview on Aug. 12—less than a day after his return to his family’s home in Indiana—Bielawski also shared some of the other highlights, adventures and statistics of a trip that included meeting an American president and escaping from a mountain lion.

Most frightening moment: “I was sleeping outside in California late at night when I heard this deep heavy breathing. A mountain lion was inching closer. I grabbed my flashlight and shined it in the direction of where I thought the cat was. I was able to see his huge shadow running away.”

Favorite memory: “I can’t pick just one. The beginning was a great memory. Seeing the stars at night in the middle of nowhere. Getting to know the Kniepkemps [a family that befriended him when his truck broke down in New Mexico.] Meeting President George W. Bush was the honor of a lifetime. Seeing the Fourth of July fireworks on the river in Shreveport, Louisiana. And the final shot with all my friends and family there.”

Number of swings on the trip: 46,870, including 1,092 swings in one day in New Mexico.

Number of lost balls on the trip: 5,540, including 121 lost balls during one day in Arizona.

First thing he was looking forward to doing after his return to Indiana: “I already slept in my bed. I’m looking forward to seeing my grandparents.”

Next time he wants to pick up a golf club: “This afternoon. I’m addicted. It’s a great game.”

Number of miles he traveled, and number of states he passed through: He hit golf balls 2,980 miles through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

Amount of money he has raised: It’s still being tabulated, he said. The total was at $42,000 on July 11.

“We’ll definitely be able to provide scholarships for students at Providence Cristo Rey, but I’m not sure the exact number yet. We’re having a golf outing on Sept. 16 at Eagle Creek golf course to raise more money.”

Next adventure: “I start my last semester of law school on Monday [Aug. 19, at Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis.] I graduate in December. We’ll have to see what adventures are waiting after that.”

(For more information about Luke Bielawski’s adventure, log on to the website, www.getonthegreen.org.)

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