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Easing into retirement

Many, many moons from now, when I'm a retired sports writer, I hope to have more afternoons like the one I was part of Wednesday.

For this week's Links With Locals feature, I had the pleasure of playing 18 holes at Lost Nation Golf Course with three area retired gentleman. They are Tom Full of Galt; his brother, Steve, of Sublette; and Dick Vivian of Dixon.

Tom and I go way back. He was my sixth grade teacher in Amboy, when I was a snot-nosed kid and he was fresh out of the service, in no mood to take any guff from the likes of me. I got the paddle three times that school year, but truthfully, deserved it just once. What was I thinking, putting gum in Donna Skidmore's hair?

Anyway, Tom was also my golf coach in high school, and we have been friends ever since. He taught school from 1976-2006, and many area sports fans may know him now as an official for high school volleyball, basketball and softball games.

When I was a kid growing up, I played at Shady Oaks, and Steve Full was one of my favorite playing partners. He never took the game too seriously, a good lesson for most golfers, and he still plays a little slice on all of his shots, just like I remembered.

I was pleased to see Steve still using his trusty Wilson 8802 putter, the same model I use. We've got about 70 years of service out of those blades between the two of us.

Steve has been retired for 4 years, having been in the construction business, as well as co-owner of a bar, the Full House, in Waterman. He stays busy nowadays cutting some grass at Timber Creek Golf Course in Dixon, and making the rounds with his wife, Judy, who was also a secretary at Amboy High School back in my Clipper days.

Dick, I don't know as well as the Fulls, but he is good friends with my brother Denny, from when Denny used to live in Dixon. They were jogging partners, then took each other on in spirited games of ping pong.

Dick, like Tom, was a junior high teacher in Amboy, from 1969-75, then got into insurance. He worked for Country Companies from 1975-2011 before retiring. He now enjoys traveling, playing golf and doting on his grandchildren with his wife, Shirley.

The match on Wednesday, offered up by Tom, was a simple one: Steve and myself against Tom and Dick, two points (low and total) possible each hole, and the loser buys at the 19th hole.

When I had the only par on the benign first hole, a short par 5, I was thinking the match was going to be a rout. It was anything but, thanks in large part to Tom.

His 9-hole scores were mostly in the low 40s when we played in previous years, but he toured the front nine Wednesday in a 2-over-par 37, tying me for medalist honors. When he rolled in a tricky, downhill putt on No. 9 for birdie, he said, "Wake me up for a drink when we're in the clubhouse."

Steve and I were only up one point at the turn, and the margin stayed that way through 15 holes, when Dick had the lone par. Order was restored when I posted the lone birdie on No. 16, and Steve and I closed out the match with two pars on No. 17.

I finished the day with a 2-over-par 73, one stroke fewer than Tom. Steve was next with an 84, while Dick had an 88. Tom had three birdies in his round, while Dick had the up-and-down of the day, from near the front of the 15th green to a back pin. Regulars at Lost Nation know just how difficult that is.

After the round, we spent some time on the sun-splashed deck outside the clubhouse, talking about our play, enjoying a few 7 Ups and watching the golfers below us start their rounds.

Good company, great atmosphere, 18 stress-free holes – I hope my retirement years are filled with plenty of afternoons like Wednesday.

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