Editor’s Note — This column on the trials and tribulations of senior golf – Golf’s Old Magic – will appear on the first Saturday of each month in the Sports section of the Venice Gondolier Sun.
They are the two best 70-year-old golfers (I happen to know.)
I think the best player around 70-years-old in our local group of golfers is … Jim. Of course, this opinion is based solely on my own observations, so there are almost certainly “septuagenarian” golfers right here in Venice as good as my nominees for these two coveted “Best in Venice” awards.
Let’s be truthful when we talk about golf. I’m calling Jim and “Pal Al” the best 70-year-old golfers in Venice only because I’ve played with them more than I’ve played with other fine local golfers of our age. High-fives and cheers to all of us senior golfers!
After two seasons of traipsing around the Turnberry and Gleneagles courses at Waterford with me, Jim bought himself a membership at a club up north a bit. At Bent Tree, foursomes are created as players arrive, and then all compete for a variety of prizes.
“There’s always a little ante, maybe $10 a round, and then a chance for little prizes at the end,” he told me a year ago when he joined the new club.
Last time I saw him in April, he had won best raw score three times in a row.
“Please don’t get the wrong impression,” he said, “these are basically nickel-and-dime games we play. We rarely have more than 20 players. Do the math. We’re not divvying up a pot worth millions.”
He doesn’t want word of his golf winnings to veer from fact, and he certainly doesn’t want to be perceived as boastful, which he isn’t. (He has known the golf gods.)
“On a good day, I might bring in $30,” Jim reports.
He’s a walker on all the courses he plays, south or north. He plays a lot so he walks a lot, regularly, all year long.
Here in Venice, Jim is an early-morning bike rider. He’s out early, pretty regularly, on the Legacy Trail, or on one of his well-explored routes though our area.
“I never go off the sidewalks, except to cross a street,” Jim said, “and I do that very carefully, believe me. You think I’m nuts? You know how many accidents there have been around here with bike riders in even in these bike lanes? With Florida drivers behind you … gimme a break!”
“Knock on wood, not too bad so far,” said Jim. “Of course, I’ve had my issues. But I’ll tell you one thing — my replacement knees are magic.”
By what standards do I measure Jim when I pronounce him “best in show” among my golf pals of about 70? On what basis do I assign him a slightly higher ranking than my friend and our condo’s very own favorite son, “Pal Al” Carter?
Pal Al hits the longest ball in our group, by far. (To be fair, he’s still a bit under 70.) When he really connects, he outdrives Jim by 40 yards.
What’s more, Pal Al can hit some pretty amazing approach shots from as far back as about 220 yards. He puts some of these approach shots a mile high in the air so they stick when they hit greens.
There’s a problem, though: Alan tends to make more “unforced errors” than Jim does. Every once in a while, on one of those easy-looking 100-yard shots he’s so good at, Alan will do something costly enough to lose a match he’s been winning. Maybe he’ll “fly” that 100-yard approach shot and send it 25 yards past the green into woods and poison ivy.
Or maybe he’ll hit one of his enormous tee shots and his ball will run right out across a fairway, into the rough. And then, he’ll have to hit his approach shot from a bad lie in thick grass — which may cost him strokes, especially if he tries to reach the green with one massive recovery shot.
But he loves those massive efforts, those massive recovery shots.
“God hates a coward,” he’ll philosophize. “Hey, you only live once!”
He loves those moments when the big rip works and he can howl in ecstasy, “Shot of the day!”
Jim is a steadier overall player than Alan is, but when Alan is hot, and when he can stay hot for a whole round, he probably beats Jim.
These are the guys who get the coveted 2018 Best in Venice award. They are the two best 70-year-old golfers (I happen to know).