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Not Just Putting Around

By Tom Lowrey, Education Assistant

 “Golf is the only game I know of that actually becomes harder the longer you play it.” ~ Bobby Jones

larry-lageIf that statement is true, then golf should indeed be very hard for ninety year old Larry Lage, a Senior Services volunteer driver. But sometimes he makes it look easy. He recently shot a not-too-shabby 78! Larry has been an avid golfer for eighty years, and after retiring from a fifty year teaching career he’s had more time to spend on the links. When he’s not volunteering at Senior Services or Windover High School, he can be found several times a week at Sandy Ridge. Some veteran golfers challenge themselves to “golf their age,” and Larry has managed to score at or below his age for the last twenty years. And along the way, he has shot five hole-in-ones!

Larry believes that golf is all about staying focused. “You really need to watch that ball until it leaves,” says Larry. “If you break concentration with it at any point, you’ve got a bad shot.” But he has a couple of tricks he uses to keep himself focused. Like Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, he talks to the ball a lot. As he tees it up, he says, “Okay, little ball… have a good trip!” And when he gets to the green he has a little thing he does with the putter that seems to work: “I look at the ball and I look at the putter, and I say, ‘Okay, do your thing,’ and beyond that I don’t pay a whole lot of attention.”

Larry played on a state champion high school golf team from Kalamazoo in 1942. His first set of clubs had hickory shafts. His favorite professional golfers were Sam Snead and Ben Hogan. “I often wonder what those two guys would do with modern equipment. They were hitting 250 yards off the tee, with hickory shafts and wooden club heads!” But Larry believes that the newer, lighter, more flexible clubs have been good for the game. Still, he is amazed that most people who play the game never break 100.

One of Larry’s favorite memories is a driving trip he made to San Francisco and back. It was a 6000 mile round trip, and because he had purchased a special Hale Irwin discount golf pass, he played at 48 different golf courses. Some days he didn’t travel over 100 miles, but he had the time of his life.

What’s the best part of Larry’s game? “I think it’s that I manage to stay in the middle. And the best part of scoring is putting. Half the strokes on your scorecard are putts. The other day when I shot that 78, I didn’t have a single birdie, but I had 13 one-putt greens.” Talk about focus! Anyone can learn to swing the club, says Larry, but as Bobby Jones used to say, “Golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course…the space between your ears.”