NCGA Golf

Summer 2017

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T he ravages of time catch up to us all. At the gym I often watch the teens and 20-some- things play pickup hoops. I pretend to be stretch- ing, but really I'm pining for my youth, back to when I could run like a gazelle and jump like a kangaroo. Golf allows us to compete into an advanced age, but at some point the drives inevitably start getting shorter, the bag heavier, the Advil more frequent. But I have a simple fix whenever I find myself feeling despondent about the infirmity that awaits my golf game: I think of Jim Ono and C.D. Madsen. Both have recently enjoyed significant milestones. Ono shot 73-68 to take a prestigious senior amateur event. Madsen recently made his first ever hole-in-one, using a 6-iron on the 108-yard, par-3 16th at Marin Country Club. You could say Madsen was overdue: he's 99. Meanwhile, Ono is a whippersnapper of 81, and at the San Mateo County Senior Championship he beat a strong field of players a quarter-century his junior. What are their secrets? "You have to work at it," says Ono. "I'm within eight pounds of my high school weight, when I played foot- ball. I work out twice a week, I walk 3 or 4 miles a day with my dog. I maintain my flexibility and my core strength. It's not easy getting old." Madsen is carried along by a palpable love of the game. "C.D. is a legend around here," says James McIntosh, an assistant pro at Marin, where Madsen has been a member for 57 years. "He's the sweetest, happiest, most optimistic old man you could ever en- counter. He's still buying green bananas. The day of his ace he shot 85 and he came in the shop and was like, 'Should've been an 83, I missed a couple short ones.'" Neither of these gamers played golf as a kid. Ono began after law school, while Madsen, a World War II vet, waited until he was in his 40s and his construction business was thriving. Ono was around a seven handi- cap when he took a chipping lesson from John Lotz, who is part of a well-known Northern California golf family. "That gave me the tools to break through to a lower handicap," Ono says. As he got down to scratch he began competing across NorCal. The first tourna- ment he entered was the Palo Alto City Championship. "I was scared to death," Ono says with a laugh. He had an epiphany shortly thereafter while com- peting in the Northern California Amateur Match Play Championship at Spyglass against future PGA Tour winner Kevin Sutherland. "I realized I could hang with these guys if I just played my own game," Ono said. He would go on to win the senior division of the San Francisco City Golf Championship in 1994, and play in multiple U.S. Senior and British Senior Ama- teurs and one British Senior Open, striding the same fairways as Gary Player and sundry other legends. "So many wonderful memories," Ono says, and then at the San Mateo Seniors he made one more. He was playing on his home course, Poplar Creek Golf Club, where Ono has a weekly game with his high school buddies. He enjoyed a nice rooting section for the tournament and the inspiration carried him to what he calls, all things considered, one of the greatest rounds of his life. "Every night before going to sleep, I visualize the perfect round—the shots I hit, the putts I make," Ono says. "And then it happened. It was a perfect storm of factors, like snow in the Sahara. It'll probably never happen again. But for some reason it touched people. I guess it gives them hope for their own game." It is this inspirational example that accounts for Madsen's popularity around Marin CC. He plays four times a week in a fourball that has a combined age of nearly 360, including Art Schallock, 94, who played for theYankees in the 1950's. Madsen still drives himself around town, including to the gym twice a week, and he brags, via email, "I still drive the hell out of my car. If you're going under 75 [miles per hour] you will be run over." He's shot his age too many times to count but making an ace became his white whale. Madsen can recount a handful of near-misses, and one at the Olympic Club during an invitational haunted him for years. Not least because he likes to hang out in the office of Marin head pro Kenneth Doherty, which is adorned by "his" hole-in-one ball from Olympic. Says Doherty, "C.D. would say to me, I've never had one and hope I do, but time's running out." On the contrary. If we can learn anything from Ono and Madsen it is that it's never too late to be the player we always wanted to be. Alan Shipnuck is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated. His introduction to golf came as a cart boy at Pebble Beach Golf Links. He lives in Carmel. 20 SUMMER 2017 | NCGA.ORG O N T H E B E A T Old Guys Rule BY ALAN SHIPNUCK

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