I’m lucky to have several different groups of golf buddies. But if it’s Friday in the summer, you’re most likely to find me playing with a regular bunch at our local muni. The “Old Golds” are 15-20 in number—so named after their founder’s nickname and their penchant for playing the Senior Gold Tees.
I don’t want to say these guys are my elders, even though some of them have a good 20 years on me. (Since I also qualify for the senior rate, I’m a little more sensitive about age discrimination.) But there aren’t any babies in these boomers.
Though I jest about their advanced years, the joke’s usually on me when it’s time for the weekly $15 pay-in. After 18 holes, they’re usually taking my money.
They play the game the right way. There are no gimmees; they come up with unique match-and-scramble formats; and every par-3 features a “closest to the pin”—and they shut me out there, too. They’re deadly accurate, fixed-income mercenaries. In a handicap match with the appropriate tee boxes, I’d put most of these guys up against your course professional any day.
They come from all walks of life and all types of occupations—salesmen, pharmacists, teachers, executives, contractors, barbers. It’s a golf melting pot if ever there was one. They’re true gentleman, respectful of the game and all its rules. But they’re also not averse to off-color jokes, cigar smoking and some good old-fashioned ball busting. Each is comfortable in his own skin, and they’ve earned their free time, reduced greens fees and all the benefits that come with surviving this long. They’ve lost parents, spouses, children, hair, hearing—had knees, hips and other joints replaced. They’ve been through chemo, endured risky surgeries, survived tours in Vietnam, battled life-threatening diseases. They can’t walk nearly as fast or upright as they once did.
Yet they still play with joy, drawn to this wonderful game that allows anyone of any age to compete through the beauty of the handicapping system. In golf, as in life, you don’t always get to play from the fairway. The rough shapes you in more ways than the short grass ever could.
Maybe most of all, the Old Golds have shown me that what you’ve had taken away matters less than the way you enjoy what you have left.