Fife man completes 18-hour golf challenge for Anthony Nolan charity

Golf enthusiast Robert Duff has just completed a challenge to raise funds for the charity Anthony Nolan – by playing as many holes as possible in one day.

By Kevin McRoberts
Wednesday, 29th June 2022, 8:07 am
Updated Wednesday, 29th June 2022, 8:08 am

Robert (56), from Leven, took on the challenge at Falkland Golf Club and managed to play 172½ holes – it would have been 173 but one hole he only managed half as juniors were being coached, so he didn't finish it.

He started his challenge at 4.03am last Wednesday morning and continued until 10.27pm when there wasn’t enough light to be able to continue. That’s 18 hours and 27 minutes of playing golf – and in that time he covered a distance of 25 miles!

Robert played a total of 782 shots (total par for the holes he played was 629), and his massive round included 51 pars and five birdies.

Robert Duff completed 172½ holes during his latest fundraising challenge to raise funds for the charity Anthony Nolan.

It’s not the first time he’s take on such a challenge for the charity. In July 2020, he completed 140 holes. And he’s done various other fundraisers too.

But that’s not all – Robert’s involvement with the charity includes him saving the lives of three strangers.

His lifesaving journey began in November 1986 when he was 21. The Round Table held a recruitment event for the Anthony Nolan register in his local shopping centre as part of a campaign to recruit 100,000 new donors in just six weeks.

The campaign hit its target, and Robert was one of tens of thousands of people to sign up as potential bone marrow donors for people with blood cancer.

Falkland Golf Club hosted Robert's latest challenge, which lasted over 18 hours.

Since then, he has gone on to donate bone marrow to three different people, and in the process has made some lifelong friends.

Robert's first bone marrow donation took place five years after joining the register, in September 1991.

Describing the procedure, Robert said: "It did feel like someone had kicked me in the back, but it wasn't too bad!”.

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Four years later Robert met the recipient of his cells, a Danish pilot Michael. Despite coming from different countries, Robert found they had much in common.

“We had a good laugh, and got on really well together,” he said. “We both loved football and things like that. I went to Denmark to meet him then he came and stayed with me twice in the UK – my mum and dad were so excited about meeting him and I'm still in contact with his wife and son. He survived until 1998, so I know I gave him seven more years of life and a chance to see his son grow up. You can see the difference a transplant makes.”

Robert's second donation took place three years after the first, to a man in Liverpool. Unfortunately, the patient contracted pneumonia in hospital and passed away soon after.

In 2001 Robert was called on to donate his bone marrow for a remarkable third time, this time to a young child in France. In an unlucky coincidence, the donation date was scheduled for 13 September, two days after the terrorist attacks in the USA.

“I was due to fly to London to get to the hospital but I got a call from Anthony Nolan saying they didn't know if the airspace would be open,” he said. “They got me train tickets just in case but I was able to fly in the end – it was scary though.”

Due to strict rules at the registry in France, Robert has never been able to get in touch with the recipient, although he did receive a letter five years later from the recipient thanking him.

Since then Robert has focused his energies on fundraising for Anthony Nolan.

“I know the difference transplants can make, and I thought why not combine things I enjoy with raising money. I'm aiming for one fundraising activity a year, and try to do something different each time.

“I've done abseils, a cross country cycle, I've run the London marathon twice and the New York marathon once, I've done a 12-hour pool marathon, held football matches and a charity night, and then there’s the golf challenges.

“The cross country cycle was supposed to be 39 miles but the bike seat fell off halfway through and I couldn't sit down, so I gave up after 26 miles! I had only intended to run two marathons but after the third transplant, I vowed I would do a third marathon as the patients have to go through such a marathon treatment process, and I felt it was the least I could do, to actually run a marathon, as, in this case, that was so much easier.”

Robert has vowed to keep on fundraising – and is also encouraging anyone thinking of joining the register to just do it.

"It's so worthwhile and the reward of knowing you've helped someone is fantastic,” he said.

You can donate to Robert’s fund at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/robert-duff2.

Toi find out more about Anthony Nolan, go to www.anthonynolan.org.