Senior golfers stay in game

Their scores -- and their ages -- might be a little different from the Masters Week golfers, but every Wednesday morning, a group of men tees off for the same reason: the love of the game.


The Forest Hills senior golf group has more than 100 men on the roll, but the average turnout is 75 to 80 players per week, most of whom have been members for 10 years or so, says 18-year member Bill Lewis.

The long tenure shows. As the golfers mingle with green coffee cups in hand, jokes fly and backs are patted.

"It's kind of like a large family," Mr. Lewis said. "We try to keep up with the people that are sick or ill."

There's even a special fund for flowers. But they're all there for a central reason -- golf.

Charlie Gibson, one of the earliest members, joined in 1985.

"When I retired, I joined," he said.

Retirement is a time to pick up the game that some of the members were just too busy to play much in their working years , including Lowell Barnhart, a former coach at Augusta State for women's basketball, men's soccer and fast-pitch softball.

"It's my job now," Mr. Barnhart laughed.

To join, you must be a Forest Hills Golf Club member and older than 55. One unique aspect of the club is that its members shoot for high scores, rather than low.

Dick Hartney, head of the group, said scoring is by a point system, one for a bogey, two for par, four for a birdie and six for an eagle.

The group is lucky to see an elusive hole-in-one once per year, Mr. Lewis said. If they do make the ultimate shot, they gain six points and a monetary prize.

Players are also given a number they shoot for, which depends on their skill level. All the players put in money that the top golfer and top team win.

It waits for them at the next Wednesday tournament in white envelopes.

"Don't take anything without your name on it, buddy," Mr. Hartney joked to another member lingering at the table.

The guys won't let a bit of inclement weather or chill keep them at home.

"Rain, shine, sleet or snow, if the golf course is open, we're here," Mr. Lewis said.

The attendance picks up in the summertime, Mr. Hartney said.

The golfers aren't looking to go pro, but the older golfers can do something younger golfers can't: Shoot their age.

Mr. Gibson said he used to be able to shoot his age two out of three rounds.

"Golfers are not like wine, they don't get better with age," Mr. Barnhart said, but they can still play.

Reach Sarah Day Owen at (706) 823-3223 or