Playing with the “Old Dudes”

by Jeff Skinner

One of the wonderful aspects of playing golf is that you get to meet and mix with all kinds of people. When you walk on that tee with less than a foursome, chances are you are going to get teamed up with another golfer just like you. In most cases the pairing in enjoyable and refreshing. Sometimes, on rare occasions you may be paired with someone that plays a little different style than you, but most times the people are pleasant and likable. I have been teamed up many times and the good playing partners outnumber the bad by at least a ten to one ratio. Sure, there’s the rare obnoxious guy that knows it all or plays way too slow or thinks he’s Tiger but generally, golfers are a fine lot.

Many people are hesitant or intimidated when they are asked to team up with someone else. I know early on when I first started playing I was not comfortable teaming up. I was not confident in my game or worried that I would slow them up or afraid that I would just play horrible golf and embarrass myself. After playing enough golf you just get used to it. That’s the way the game is played and etiquette is as much a part of this game as the rules are. One thing I learned is that you don’t have to worry about the better players ever saying or doing anything to embarrass a player of lesser ability. I’ve played with some very good golfers, much better than myself and I never had an issue with them. It’s normally the knucklehead that has covers on his irons and a twelve pack stashed in his bag that will give you trouble.

I love being teamed up with the old timers. If you play at any of the local muni’s you know these guys. These are the guys that are at the course at first light and usually the first couple of groups off the tee. They play quicker than anyone. They know their game. They hit it down the middle, not too far but always straight, never ask for a yardage and can scramble like a pro. I play quickly and it’s always a challenge to keep up with these octogenarian speedsters. It should be a mandatory requirement for any youngster starting to play golf that they spend a round or two with these rabbits of the links. A day spent with these guys and they will know the rules of quick, efficient play and the art of “ready golf.” If some of these Tiger Woods wannabes could get a look at how these “old dudes” manage their way around the course they would see how golf was meant to be played: quickly and with friends.

This week I was fortunate to pair up with two really nice guys. Denny and Newt were their names and they both were over eighty and Newt had a bad eye and worse hearing. They rode, my buddy and I walked and Denny spent a good amount of time helping his buddy around the course. After we all got warmed up, they both hit it down the middle with a great assortment of woods, not too many irons in their bags, and they putted well enough to make a bogey or two. The two of them were just happy to keep it in the fairway and be able to play a round of golf. My buddy kept saying that he hopes he’s out here at that age and I agreed. Their company was pleasant and we both enjoyed playing with each other.

It’s hard not to meet nice people on the golf course. One of the remarkable pairings happened to me last year. I get teamed up with a pair of “old timers” at my favorite municipal course and we all are walking. This one guy was eighty nine and he’s walking! So, were looking for our balls and he mentioned he was watching a history channel show the previous night on World War II and he recognized his old unit in the footage. I have a soft spot for the WW II vets; my dad was one, so I asked him about his service. He wouldn’t talk about it at first, but he was so thrilled that he and his buddies had made it on television. “I couldn’t believe it! That was my old unit” he said. I kept after him and begged for a little story. He finally relents and he tells me he was a Navy pilot and was on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. He is sitting in his plane on the deck of the carrier, waiting to take off when the ship is attacked by Japanese aircraft. He’s stuck there in line behind other planes watching the attacking planes swoop down on the carrier. He said he was helpless just sitting there. I asked what he did and he tells me,” I opened my canopy, pulled out my pistol and started shooting at those guys.” Can you picture that? His pulls out his gun and stands up in his plane and tries to shoot the plane while it attacks his ship. You have got to love a guy like that. I thought that was a great story, but he was more impressed with his buddies making it on the History Channel. God bless guys like that and all those “old dudes” out there on the links. Next time you’re out there and getting teamed up, don’t hesitate to play with the “old dudes.” You might even meet a real American Hero.


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