Luke Bielawski teed off across the country to help students, and his journey isn’t over
Fishers resident Luke Bielawski crushed the ball across a course that offered hazards seasoned golfers seldom face, and he did it for charity.
Bielawski set out on a 96-day trip, dubbed From Tee to Shining Tee, across the American countryside to raise scholarship money for students at Providence Cristo Rey High School, a college-preparatory high school in Indianapolis.
His journey teed off at Ventura Beach in California and closed with a biodegradable ball launched into the Atlantic Ocean from the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in South Carolina.
In between, the golfer and law student sent the ball flying through the Mojave Desert, along a road commonly used by cartel drug runners called Smuggler’s Lane and across the Mississippi River.
Amidst the challenges of the 2,947-mile quest to raise $100,000 for the local school, his beliefs in the kindness of people were reaffirmed, making life-long friends along the way and chatting with a former President of the United States.
A great adventure
Bielawski got the idea for the adventure that teed off on May 7 and closed Aug. 10 watching “Forrest Gump,” which many will remember featured scenes of the titular character running across the United States.
The golfer combined the idea with his long-present passion for service to others and admiration for Providence Cristo Rey, a school he heard about in the media and from local public servants like Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.
So, four grown men sharing a camper – a film producer, cameraman, driver and Bielawski – took off across the country to whack a golf ball East.
Trapped in that camper for more than three months, one of the biggest challenges for Bielawski was keeping the crew’s morale up as they moved across the American south.
Monotony, discomfort in tight quarters and no escape became a reality until the last ball was hit into the Atlantic.
“I kept telling them, and I kept telling myself, in a month we’ll be back,” he said. “So, embrace the challenge. Embrace the uncomfortableness. That’s why they call it an adventure, and that’s why few people do it.”
But along the way, people and fortuitous situations broke up the monotony of the trip.
Oh, the people you’ll meet
Stops on the trip raised some of the crew member’s spirits.
Bielawski spoke to students at San Miguel High School, another Cristo Rey school, in Tucson, Ariz.
Kevin Reem, a 57-year-old film producer from Burbank, Calif. was documenting the adventure and said that stop reminded them why they were going through the ordeal – it was for the kids.
“It (thinking about the goal) keeps you going,” he said. “It gets you through.”
He said southern hospitality truly exists.
When the crew had a tire blow out, a New Mexico family sheltered and fed them, and Bielawski said they’re now family friends.
Further down the golf trail, they met two men, who dubbed themselves the Christ Cowboys, preparing for their own cross country trip on horseback to spread the good word.
They took a pit stop in Dallas to meet with President George W. Bush.
Bielawski said Bush is a down to earth person who wants to know something about you and whose conversations always come back to family.
“They (George and Laura Bush) still have a deep passion to help other people,” he said.
He said before he left he’s had experience with people in small towns and believed country folk were family-oriented and hardworking.
“It was something I always believed, but just sort of reaffirmed and solidified my belief that there are great people out in the country, and the United States in general,” Bielawski said. “People just want to help out.”
The next step
The crew surpassed the halfway mark in terms of fundraising. The Get On The Green Foundation, the nonprofit entity over From Tee to Shining Tee, is still accepting donations. Golfers can sign up or sponsor a hole for the 2013 Get On The Green Golf Scramble at Eagle Creek Golf Club Sept. 16 at www.getonthegreen.org.
For more information on Providence Cristo Rey High School, visit www.pcrhs.org.
Meet Luke Bielawski
Family: Father, Joe, 54; Mother, Julie, 53; Sisters Anna, 21, and Megan, 27
How long he’s lived in Fishers: 10 years
Current vocation: Student at the Robert H. McKinney School of Law
Quick stats from the journey
Days on the road: 96
Lost balls: 5,540
Miles travelled: 2,947
Broken clubs: 3
Strange hazards: cow dung, a beehive, under cars and under a WWII memorial tank
Weirdest place to hit a ball: Across a bridge spanning the Mississippi River
States travelled: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina