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A taste of the senior life

Forrest Clark (right) takes a putt while fellow golfers Red Spencer (l-r), Tom Hoch and Reuben Barnhart stand by at Shady Oaks in Amboy. The golfers were participating in the Northwest Seniors Golf League.
Forrest Clark (right) takes a putt while fellow golfers Red Spencer (l-r), Tom Hoch and Reuben Barnhart stand by at Shady Oaks in Amboy. The golfers were participating in the Northwest Seniors Golf League.

For 1 day this week, I was a token 50-year-old.

The scary thing is, that bend of life is right around the corner for me.

This week's Links With Locals took me to Shady Oaks Country Club, where I participated in the Northwest Seniors Golf League on Monday morning. The league, now in its 28th year, was started to give golfers 50 and over a place to gather for golf, a few cocktails and loads of fun.

Originally, Oakville Country Club in Mount Carroll was the host site. Now, there are 28 courses in northwest Illinois, eastern Iowa and southern Wisconsin that are part of the rotation. Play begins in mid-March and concludes in early November.

There are usually around 100 golfers on any given Monday, though it has been as high as 150 when played at Wolf Hollow Golf Course in Lena. There are some weeks two 9-hole courses are used, in which case the field is split.

Handicaps are used to determine the players' skill level, and each 3-man team has an A, B and C player. A total team handicap of about 65 is the goal, and organizers try to not have the same golfers paired together week after week.

Cost is $30 per player, with $20 of that going to the host course and $10 going toward prize money. The format is a scramble.

On Monday, there were 30 teams that played Shady Oaks, which happened to be my old stomping grounds growing up. My partners were a pair of regulars: Red Spencer of Lyndon and Ron Wright of Winnebago.

I was in the same cart as Red, and he had a Green Bay Packers golf bag. "Oh great, I'm with a Packers fan," I said with a smile.

Red looked at my Chicago Cubs club cover and said, "Now I wish I had my St. Louis Cardinals club cover."

After that somewhat awkward start, Red and I got along famously the rest of the day. He was delightfully profane – the kind of guy who had a million stories, but few of which could be in a family newspaper.

I particularly liked the one about why the grey-backed gorillas in Africa are always angry, something he learned from watching Animal Planet. The answer had me chuckling from the eighth tee until the ninth green, when our team made our only bogey of the day.

Red, Ron and me worked well enough together to piece together a 3-under-par 68, which tied us for fifth place. It earned us some minimal prize money, but I'd guess very few of the people that played Monday were in it to pad their wallets.

It was for the camaraderie, to meet some people you wouldn't ordinarily get to meet, and to play some different golf courses.

Each group is paired with another group, to keep things honest. For me, that meant meeting Tom Hoch of Thomson, Reuben Barnhart of Oregon and Forrest Clark of Davis.

Tom is a teacher and coach in West Carroll who has written two books, with another one, about golf, coming out shortly.

Reuben played on Oregon football teams in the 1960s that lost one game and tied one in his three years of playing. "Two years later, I was in southeast Asia for the Tet Offensive," he said.

Forrest swung a golf club very nicely, and hit more than his share of great putts. On the last hole, he asked me how old I thought he was, and I guessed it on the number – 81.

"You ought to work for a carnival," he said.

I doubt that any carnival work is in my future, but another round with the Northwest Seniors may be. After all, I'll be eligible in another 8 months.


In a little more than 3 weeks, the men's Lincoln Highway tournament will be cranking up again, this time at Indian Oaks in Shabbona. The Sunset team will consist of Scott Aken, Brian Weidman, Jeff Johnson, Brian Anderson, Nate Bramm and Pat Marshall.

That was determined after Sunset's club championship this past weekend. We finished second last year, after an unbelievable final-nine comeback from Timber Creek. Who knows, maybe this year will be our turn.

By the way, congrats to Timber Creek's Bob Venier. He didn't make the Dixon team a year ago, but was bound and determined to this year. So, he went out and won the qualifier this past weekend.


And finally, I'm still looking for responses to last week's question, "Who would fill out your fantasy foursome?" I just need three names, and a sentence or two why you picked those people.

Only received a couple of responses thus far, and that will be next week's column, as I'll be on vacation. Help me out people!

Please drop off a note at the office in Sterling no later than Friday (6/27) afternoon, or email to ASAP.


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