By Jeanne Sager
JEFFERSONVILLE October 17, 2006 It turned out to be a lot more than nothing.
When Andy Girard left Jeffersonville on July 28, he was calling his adventure the Summer of Andy.
It was a take-off on an episode from his favorite show Seinfeld, better known as “the show about nothing.”
But in 76 days, Girard traveled 17,615.5 miles in his little green Honda.
He played 864 rounds of golf, spread out over the 48 states of the contiguous U.S.
He said “fill ‘er up” 50 times, camped out once, spent two nights in his car and 37 in hotel rooms.
And he raised $6,080 for the National Breast Cancer Foundation a total that’s still rising as he collects on pledges made while he was out on the road.
The Summer of Andy was really a summer of golfing for a cause.
He lost a close family member to breast cancer in 2005, and he was left with a feeling that in the five years since her diagnosis, he’d done nothing.
When he quit his job in New York City in the spring and returned to Sullivan County to live with his mom while he regrouped, Girard was looking for a way to spend his summer.
He took a job at Tennanah Lake Golf and Tennis Club and asked his friends and family for ideas to make this summer a big one before heading back into the world of work.
Golfing seemed the natural option he’s been playing since eighth grade when he joined the team at Jeff-Youngsville Central School.
But the trick was to make a summer out on the links into a worthwhile summer.
That’s where the National Breast Cancer Foundation came in.
Girard researched cancer causes and chose the one that put money into research and providing mammograms to the uninsured.
Then he began plotting his steps. He built a Web site, started calling courses.
By late July, he was ready to drive out of Kohlertown and head to the Green Mountain National Golf Course in Vermont.
Over the next three months, he wound his way around the country.
Friends who offered up a place to stay and courses that agreed to donate his greens fees back to the cause determined his route.
In the end, all but two donated the fees back that meant money Girard ponied up out of his own pocket to cover his game went straight into the fund that he’ll turn over to the foundation in early November.
Of those that didn’t donate, one offered him several rounds free because the course is in New Jersey he’s considered trying to raffle them off to raise more money for the cause.
He found only the course in Ohio was unresponsive to the cause.
But people along the way made up for it.
Playing on a course in Iowa after a rain delay, he was able to collect $140 just hanging out in the clubhouse.
Later he checked his Website another $100 donation came in from one of the men who’d been on the course that day, a guy who lost his mother to breast cancer.
“I had a lot of great reactions from the pros,” Girard said. “And the people that I actually met . . . it’s crazy, a lot of them were really interested to know where I was on my trip.”
He handed out his card, directed people to the site.
A few logged on and tracked his progress, a few sent him messages.
But the big Summer of Andy magnets on his car drew only stares.
“Maybe it’s all in my head,” he said with a laugh. “But I felt like I’d see somebody looking, I’d look, and they’d look away really fast.
“I don’t know if someone thought I was going to chase them down and ask them for my money!”
Meanwhile, Girard was spending his every waking moment in the car or on the course.
He took a few mini vacations along the way, dropped in on his cousin Mark and his wife on their Maine vacation and extended his stay in Denver, Colo. to greet his new nephew, Garrin Patrick.
But there wasn’t much time for fun and games on the links.
“It’s weird, because it turned golf into more of a job than just leisurely playing a round of golf,” Girard explained.
When he was done golfing, Girard then had to go online (sometimes “borrowing” wireless Internet from hotels along the way) to post a course overview and update his blog so people could chart his path.
“It was hard having enough energy after a day of golf and driving to get on my computer and do work,” the self-described “computer geek” said.
“Everyone says, ‘You’ve got to be sick of driving,’” he continued. “I’m really not . . . I’m more sick of the golf!”
When he returned to New York to play his final game at Tennanah Lake, Director of Golf Frank Godlewski asked where the hometown course ranked.
Having grown up in Sullivan County, Girard said it’s hard to compare Tennanah to the links around the country.
“What is unique for me is playing in the middle of the desert,” he said. “For someone else, someone from Arizona, playing here would be unique.
“It’s hard to choose one specific spot,” he said.
But the Stonewall Golf Club in Gainesville, Va. earned his nod as the course he’d most likely return to.
“It seemed like everything was just perfect,” Girard explained. “All the rough was cut the same way, the fairway grass was all the same length.”
Less than a week after he arrived home, Girard said he’s got the bug again.
He’d head back to the course on Lake Manassas in the northern part of Virginia or even head up to Tennanah Lake.
But Girard won’t have much time for golf in the coming weeks.
He’s putting together T-shirts for folks who sponsored individual states, collecting pledges and completing his Web site.
Donations are still being accepted anyone with a PayPal account can log on and donate right on his site, or checks made out to Breast Cancer Golf Tour can be sent to Summer of Andy Fight Against Breast Cancer Golf Tour, P.O. Box 390, Jeffersonville, NY 12748.
His goal for the trip was $10,000 and a heightened awareness of the risks of breast cancer.
Even with just over $6,000 bankrolled, Girard said the trip was worth every night sleeping in his car, every painful day he pulled up to the pump.
He played his second-to-last course in Pennsylvania with his grandfather, returned home to his proud mom, Gale, and realized he’d finally done something.
“I don’t think there was a day that went by that I didn’t think about her,” he said of the family member, whose name he keeps close to his heart.