Golf: The secret to feeling young

Rapidly approaching senior citizenship, the baby-boom generation can take delight in guys like Nort Thomton, 90, Kenneth Olson, 91, Roy Jensen, 97, and others of their ilk.

Rapidly approaching senior citizenship, the baby-boom generation can take delight in guys like Nort Thomton, 90, Kenneth Olson, 91, Roy Jensen, 97, and others of their ilk.

They're still swingers and lovin' it.

Jensen, a farmer who retired at 65 and took up golf three years later, will be 98 on Tuesday. He tees it up twice a week, as long as it's not too hot.

Any secrets to this kind of longevity and good health?

"No, just lucky, I guess," he said. "I never had any special diet."


He drives a forest-green Buick to the Valley Golf Course, where he plays in a league each Tuesday morning. His golf cart is parked in the underbelly of the clubhouse. He remarks that he walked the course until age 90.

Other seniors marvel at Roy's stamina.

His playing partner Quentin Norine, 87, quit playing for the time being when the mercury hung around 90 day after day.

"I got dizzy once and they had to splash water in my face to get me right again," said Norine, who picked up the sticks when he retired from farming and moved to town 13 years ago.

"Roy is so tough, he just kept on playing," Norine marveled. "I enjoyed playing with him so much. I'll play again when it gets cooler. I never had time for golf before but now I just get so excited about it."

Hitting from the red tees, the Seniors Blue Division plays Valley's nine holes at 2,212 yards. There are two higher senior divisions for men (each about 38 players), plus a senior woman's league of 25-30 golfers.

"I used to play No. 5 (135 yards) with a three-iron, now I can hardly make it with a driver," said Jensen.

Olson, who lives north of Lake Lillian, will be 92 in February. He keeps limber despite two knee replacements with a lot of walking.


His golfing partner this Wednesday morning was Stanley Nelson, a former shopkeeper with stores in Rosendale, Atwater and Grove City. Olson and Nelson spent years singing in a barbershop group together.

"I've had triple bypass and a new heart valve," said Nelson, a cheerful 83 years old. "When you get old, things start happening. Parts wear out."

Thomton of Willmar turned 90 on Wednesday. He celebrated in the morning with a round of golf with his long-time playing partner Mike Bakke, 81. Both had long careers with Bell Telephone.

"I didn't start playing until I was 65 when I retired," said Bakke. "Norton has played all his life."

Thomton started playing in his early teens on a course that no longer exists, just west of Montevideo where he grew up. He's had three holes-in-one, two in Florida and No. 7 Valley from 190 yards with a four-iron, "When I was much younger," he added.

The 1986 Seniors Champion at Valley spent the winter in the hospital and at Rice Care Center after a blow to his head in a fall at home, causing serious internal bleeding. He worked his way back with therapy just in time to play in leagues with his partner Bakke.

They played in the highest-handicapped Blue Division but were good enough to win the first half and may have to move up to White next spring.

Playing in his eighth decade, Thomton was asked how much longer he plans to play the game?


"You're guess is as good as mine," he chuckled, and then quickly added with another laugh: "Every day I get up, I'm thankful I'm here."

Hotter in Arizona

Many seniors head to Arizona to sharpen their golf game each winter, or play tennis or softball. For those who have made it their home year around, summer is a time to back off.

Dwayne Netland, a gifted writer from the start, had a column in this newspaper ("Netty") while still in high school. After graduation in 1950, he went on to work for the Minneapolis Tribune before joining Golf Digest, where he worked 23 years, retiring as a senior editor.

"For a while in July it got up to 110, 112, 115 and no one was playing, but it's cooled off now to in the 90s."

Netland, 75, has a bad back and hasn't golfed for two years, though his wife, Joanne, gets out a lot and is not much bothered by the heat.

The Netlands drove north every year to spend summers at their place near Park Rapids but the last two years have stayed put in Scottsdale, finding it's just too long a drive now.

4 area golfers at Jr. PGA Players Cup


Andrew Whitchurch of Litchfield shot an 85 Thursday at the Junior PGA Players Cup for ages 16-18 at Highland National Golf Course in St. Paul. Dan Buysse of Redwood Falls recorded a 95.

Nathan Hoefflin of St. Cloud won the event with a 79.

In the boys 13-15 division at Pebble Beach Golf Course in Becker, Taylor Olson of Granite Falls shot an 80 Friday.

In the girls 13-15 division, Katlyn Kiehn of Litchfield shot a 102.

Chip shots

n The Island Pine Golf Club will host the 26th Grove City Tournament at 9 a.m. today. Stanley Nelson, the retired Grove City merchandiser, said entrants must meet one of three criteria: "(1) Live in Grove City (2) Have lived in Grove City at one time or (3) Have a relative who lives in Grove City.

One recent year, 130 played, Nelson said.

n Jeff Gillespie of Willmar made a hole-in-one on July 28 at Eagle Creek. The former amateur baseball infielder for Litchfield and Raymond used a six-iron on No. 16.


n The First GranVille Cup was won by Granite Run, 24-11. After holding only a 7½-6½ lead after playing at Stoney Creek last Saturday, the Granite crew dominated on their home course the second day. The Ryder Cup format had 14 players on each team. The golf club head-to-head competition will expand to other area links, if Stoney Creek manager Brett Varpness has his way.

n Former PGA and Nationwide touring pro Aaron Barber is signed up to play in both the Smith Open today at Eagle Creek and the Habitat for Humanity Pro-Am on Sunday at Little Crow. One of his playing partners today will be Aaron Jacobson, the Willmar native who is a teaching pro at Rush Creek.

What To Read Next
Get Local