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A round of golf a day keeps boredom away

Orange County's Ben Bengali traded a bad habit for a good one
Bengali played 365 rounds of golf in 365 days, ending on July 31
"You cannot not have a plan when you retire," Bengali says

Scientists recently stumbled across a switch in a mouse’s brain that can turn appetite on and off. Presumably, this can one day be applied to fishing and golf. I hope not, but it probably will. Once available in pill form, wives across America will crush them up and secretly sprinkle them on their husbands’ cereal.

And then what will become of adventurers like Ben Bengali?

Some men chase whales, others chase fame, Ben Bengali chased a little white ball over large expanses of lawn for an entire year — 365 rounds of golf in 365 days.

Not that’s he’s obsessive about the game. He passed simple obsession months ago. No, this is something beyond that. The way Lawrence of Arabia trudged through deserts, that’s the way Bengali stalks across Orange County sand traps.

Tell me, what are you going to do when you retire? Well, Bengali chose golf, trading a bad habit (too much work) for a good one (too much sun and fresh air).

“I started playing every day,” he says, “and about a third of the way, my buddies said why don’t you try going the whole year.”

At least 18 holes a day, nearly every day (one rainout that he made up later).

No, it’s not as impressive as rowing across the Pacific or circling the globe in a paper airplane. It’s just one man’s way of transitioning from the workaday world that consumed him for 28 years — 16 hours a day, five days a week — to the purgatory of retirement that gives so many men fits, when the free time they craved suddenly eats them alive.

“You cannot not have a plan when you retire,” he says now. “Play a sport that’s active.”

Or even golf.

Here’s the scorecard from Bengali’s year of course work:

—Total miles walked: 186.

—Number of strokes: 30,660 (not including practice swings).

—Number of hours playing, 1,518, or the equivalent of about 63 complete 24-hour days.

—Cumulative time spent swinging a club: 11 hours.

—Cumulative divots: a crater almost four football fields deep. (380 total yards, based on taking a one-inch divot on half the holes).

Bengali recorded one hole in one, 140 birdies and shot an impressive 76, his best round, on June 17. He lowered his handicap index from a 15.2 to a 9.4.

Sometimes he used a cart, sometimes he walked. Mostly, he played Monarch Beach in Dana Point, but he’d occasionally mix it up a little.

Eighteen holes a day, four to five hours a day, completing his golf marathon on July 31.

During his golf spree, Bengali also estimates he lifted 27 tons of golf clubs, calculating an average of 2 pounds per club per swing.

Oh, his aching back.

‘“Progressively, it got better,” he says of the wear and tear. “At age 67, you play every day, you’re going to ache. But aches and pains are temporary ... accomplishment is forever.”

By now you’re thinking: Must’ve been a nice marriage while it lasted.

“My wife is very understanding,” Bengali says. “She knows it’s just for a year, and she knows it’s something I love.”

His golfing partners praise his discipline and attitude.

“The thing about Ben is that he’s never discouraged,” says Tom Johnson, who plays with him four or five days a week. “I’ve never heard him say a bad word about anyone.”

Think of Bengali’s story as the Great California Dream. Grew up in India, came to the U.S. at 19 to attend Cal State Fullerton. Excelled at accounting, then at software. Started his own company, made a bundle, but had no time to enjoy it.

“There comes a time when you say, ‘What kind of life do you want to live?’” he says.

So, gradually, he let his business contracts run out and eased into retirement.

“One obsession prepared me for the next,” he admits.

With his quest completed, Bengali is now devoting the next couple of months to his wife Janelle, with a trip to Hawaii, and then a cruise on the East Coast.

All this makes me wonder: What do pro golfers do when they retire? Spreadsheets? Do they try to meet sales projections in the Northeast sector? Or do they simply play more golf?

Yeah, probably golf.

Twitter: @erskinetimes

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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