84-year-old golfer proves that seniors can still compete


As long as the eyes can see, the arms can swing and the hips can rotate, if only a little, the game can still go on. - Pixabay

Unlike most, golf is a game that rewards the lowest number. If the numbers are 84 and 18, what chance does 84 have?

Such was the case recently as the Crestwicke Country Club Women’s Golf Association in Illinois in the United States conducted a five-hole handicap shootout as part of its annual Play Day. Thirteen players were eliminated by the fifth hole, leaving only 84-year-old JoAnn Bowers and 18-year-old Mackenzie Biggs.

Eighty-four won.

We’ll get into how in a second. For now, just know it was a victory for golf and its ability to bridge generations. We see small bridges at courses all the time that allow golfers to negotiate water hazards.

The bridge on this day covered 66 years.

That’s a lot of earthly laps around the sun. Yet, there they were, a retired teacher/coach and a recent high school graduate on lush, green common ground.

“The only reason someone like me can stay with these young kids in the shootout is handicap, ” said Bowers, a former highly successful girls basketball and tennis coach. “In other words, I get strokes. And as you age, your handicap goes up.”

Maybe, but consider this. Crestwicke’s Play Day consists of an 18-hole round, then lunch, then the shootout for those who decide to enter. That means Bowers was on her 23rd hole of the day as she stood over a putt of six-plus metres. Miss it and Biggs wins. Make it and she keeps her hopes alive.

Admittedly weary by then, Bowers sank the putt. It led to a “chip-off, ” and when Bowers’ chip was closer to the pin than Biggs, 84 had bested 18.

“I think I was just as shocked as she was, if not more, that she made that putt, ” said Biggs, a Normal Community grad who will play golf at Central College in Pella, Iowa. “It just shows she’s a fighter and a competitor and I love that spirit about her.

“She definitely motivates me. Hearing her talk about how she works out every day and seeing she has the strength to come out and play with everyone really makes me excited.”

Biggs is the youngest of the association’s 60-plus members. Bowers is the oldest and realises “you don’t see many 80-year-olds on the golf course.”

She feels fortunate to still be getting her swings, especially this year with Biggs, University of Evansville golfer Allison Enchelmayer and former Illinois State golfer Kiley Specht playing in the Crestwicke association.

“I love playing with these kids. I really do, ” Bowers said. “The three of them, their personalities, you just have to love them. Mackenzie is such a good kid.”

Their bond is golf and without it, Bowers may never have met Biggs, Enchelmayer and Specht. She draws energy from them and they get inspiration from her. Biggs will tell you she is uplifted by the “wisdom” gained from Bowers and other veteran members of the organisation.

She also finds comfort in “knowing that I can play when I’m their age.”

That is among golf’s blessings. It has no expiration date. As long as the eyes can see, arms can swing and hips can rotate, if only a little, the game is there for you.

It can allow you to overcome a self-described “bad drive” and “lousy second shot” by nailing a putt from beyond six metres. It can make you a winner when your chip ends just inside that of your opponent, who also happens to be a friend of your granddaughter.

“She got it there just a little bit closer, ” Biggs said. “I kind of messed mine up a little. But I was happy she won just as much as if I had won.

“After we got done, I looked right at my mom (Tina) and said, ‘I am going to remember this experience forever.’ I’m so glad it was me against JoAnn. We had so much fun, and I can’t wait to tell the younger generation when I’m her age about what happened when I was 18.”

What a tale it will be, 84 beating 18. In golf. — The Pantagraph/Tribune News Service

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