By James Achenbach
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — There are times when all of us should forget about golf scores and think solely about golf friendships.
Golf scores are nice, but golf friendships are powerful. They are meaningful. They add structure and substance to our lives.
Dave Ryan, one of 27 amateurs who qualified for the U.S. Senior Open, is a friend of mine. We grew up in the same little cow town (Taylorville, Ill.) and learned to play golf on the same little course (the 9-hole Taylorville Country Club).
Here at Del Paso Country Club, the 61-year-old Ryan found himself leading the U.S. Senior Open in the first round — albeit for the briefest time. Starting at 8:34 a.m. from the 10th tee, he birdied 10, 11 and 12 and was off and running.
Soon thereafter he was off and stumbling. At one point he went 5 over par in a 4-hole stretch (Nos. 2 through 5).
Still, he shot 73, 3 over par. He has much to be proud of. This was his 17th appearance in a U.S. Golf Association championship. He sits near the pinnacle of amateurism.
While Ryan was learning to compete with the best golfers in the Chicago area, I was learning to have fun with the game, constantly played cross country golf, inventing new holes.
Ryan, who retired 10 years ago from a series of family businesses, became somewhat famous in amateur circles. He was a player. All I ever wanted to do was write about the game. I was an observer.
To Ryan and his wife, Amy, who are members at Illini Country Club in Springfield, Ill., I say, "Keep playing, keep entering tournaments." Surveying Golfweek's national senior amateur schedule, the competition among golfers who are at least 65 (or sometimes 70) comprises the fastest growing age group.
To my buddies – Jim Marblestone, Don Beane, Joe Smith, Bill Hopper – I say thanks for the guidance and friendship. Golf was the platform, but it was always the people who made the difference.