Golfing from sea to shining sea

By Dean Stephens

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- An Indiana University law student is on a summer vacation to remember.

He's raising scholarship money for underprivileged kids back home, but his fundraising idea is a little outside the norm: golf across America. But do it far away from plush fairways and manicured greens.Luke Bielawski has spent his summer traveling the back roads of America, hitting a little white ball and then chasing it for miles and miles and miles."I've always been the type of guy go big or go home," said Bielawski.There are no penalty strokes in this match, just thousands of strokes stretching from California to South Carolina."It hit me when I was watching Forrest Gump, why not hit a golf ball across the country," said Bielawski.And that's what he's done since May. He teed off in Ventura Beach, Calif., and played through some fairly treacherous hazards."They call it Smuggler's Alley because of the dope smugglers and the cartels use the road all the time," said Bielawski. "I saw a cheetah in Alabama, and in Louisiana in somebody's backyard I saw a giraffe and a zebra."But it was a close encounter with a mountain lion in California that shook him from a deep sleep."It was about four in the morning. I hear this deep, deep, deep, heavy breathing. It was inching, inching, closer and closer. So I grabbed my shotgun and flashlight panning across. My movement luckily scared him. I saw his shadow. It was a big cat," said Bielawski.His golf trek has taken him through remote outposts meeting curious onlookers along the way. "They say, 'Son, what on Earth are you doing?' I tell them, 'Hitting a golf ball. You mind if I play through?'" said Bielawski.Bielawski plays on average 8-10 hours a day and plays them where they lie, including right in the middle of the street. "I hit a 2,000-yard shot out west . It was a downgrade, perfect pavement. It rolled and rolled and I didn't find it," said Bielawski.He has hit it more than 47,000 times, lost more than 5,400 balls, and all he wants to do when he gets home is some time on the green."The first thing when I get home before I unpack is to play golf, but not on the sides of the road," said Bielawski. Bielawski's long road will end Saturday at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island when he hits his final shot into the Atlantic.For more on Bielawski and his cause, check out his website: