By Ed Donlin
I had an interesting weekend at the North Carolina Four-Ball championship. I turned 61 in August and try to stick to Senior amateur events now. A young man at our club, Walker Cress, and I played two years ago in the event. At the time, Walker was a sophomore in high school and had just started to get really focused on golf. His dad (Alan – our club professional) wanted him to experience something other than junior golf. We played ok, made the cut, and he gained some valuable experience.
Walker has really advanced his skill level in two years and has signed a letter of intent to play golf at James Madison University, next fall. He did not have many junior events scheduled for the fall and asked me this summer if I wanted to play in the event with him. I told him that I am sure he could find a younger partner that could help him be more competitive in the event, since my distance has dropped off the last couple of years. He insisted that he wanted to play with me. Since the event was being played at Croasdaile CC in Durham, NC, a course where I play a Senior event every spring and it’s only 6800 from the tips, I agreed to play.
There were a number teams that were high school players or players just out of college, but for the most part the teams are made up of guys between 25 and 40 years old. The first two rounds we were paired with a father-son team, the son was also a high school student. Since the dad was probably in his early 40’s, I was pretty comfortable.
The reality hit when we got the first tee on Sunday. Walker had told me we were playing with some guys he knew from junior golf, but I did not realize how young they were. I have known the official that was the starter on the first tee for many years. Ben looked at me funny when I walked onto the tee with these three young guys. He said, “Ed, this is the most unusual pairing I have seen in a while," so we did the math.
My partner is 17, the two young men we played with were 14 and 16! I was 14 years older than their combined ages! I think I have golf shirts older than they were!
Walker has signed a letter of intent; Jimbo, the 16 year old will probably sign in the spring and Patrick, the 14 year old will not be far behind them.
With all we have seen in the last few years where young men and woman are qualifying for USGA adult events and making cuts in PGA and LPGA events, the game appears to be headed in a good direction.
There is no way I would have ever been able to compete at this level when I was their age and I am not sure any of my peers could have either.
The best part of my experience on Sunday is how respectful these young men were to me and every adult they encountered. My mom always said that it was hard for young people to get into trouble when they were on the golf course and it taught us great life skills! I tend to agree.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Donlin and Walker carded rounds of 66-68-66, 16-under for the three days, finished tied for 7th. Donlin bested the rest of his group with five birdies and only three bogeys on Sunday.