Beating his age a daily habit for 89-year-old

By Bob Lutz
Published on

WICHITA, Kan. -- If 89-year-old Kenny Squires shot his age in golf, he'd try to figure out why he had such a bad day.

And you could bet he wouldn't shoot so poorly the next time.

Squires, who plays every day he can find a golf course that isn't freezing, plays so well that players on nearby fairways take notice. They yell "nice shot" after one of his drives.

But Squires, who didn't take up golf, really, until his days as a competitive softball player were finished, is unimpressed.

"I'm still a fair player," he said. "There's not much else I can do at my age that I can play like this. It gets me exercise and gives me a reason to get up and go in the morning. A lot of guys just sit and watch TV, but that's not good. You've got to get outside and do something."

For Squires, that something is golf. He and his partners routinely meet in the mornings at Willowbend Golf Club and play 18 holes. If it's hot -- and I mean really HOT -- he might stop after nine holes.

Speaking of nine holes, that's how many holes Squires has aced over the years, he said. His first came way back -- 40 or so years ago -- at Rolling Hills Country Club. The most recent was last fall at Willowbend. Don't bet against 10, folks. I'm telling you.

But Squires' golf game really isn't about making holes in one. It's about consistency, hitting shots the way he's trying to hit them. And as any golfer will tell you, that's the trick.

The folks at Willowbend who see Squires almost every day have grown accustomed to his uncanny ability to continue to put up great scores year after year.

When I played with Squires last week, he shot an 82. I didn't count one bad tee shot, although he did duff an iron shot on the back nine. Being a gentleman, he expressed only mild disappointment. But it was obvious the errant shot surprised him.

"We probably gloss over his ability out here," said Willowbend pro Jim Elliott. "We see how amazing he is every day so we get used to it and it maybe gets lost in the shuffle. But what he does is amazing."

On days when the course is being used for a tournament -- Squires really dislikes those days -- he pulls out his clubs for practice. And it's not like he lives nearby; he lives with his daughter, Karla Fowler, and her husband, Bucky, near Central and Woodlawn, five-or-so miles from Willowbend.

"He goes right down Woodlawn to 37th and takes a right and he's almost there," Karla Fowler, Squires' daughter, said.

Squires lived on his own for a few years after his wife, Mary Ruth, died five years ago. But that became difficult and he says he's a lucky man to be able to live with Karla and Bucky.

Squires son, Gary, is the boys basketball coach at North and says he's played hundreds of rounds with his father over the years.

"He's unbelievable," Gary said. "Everybody says he hasn't missed a fairway in 30 years and I think that's true."

Like a lot of golfers, Gary Squires buys a new driver every three or four years just to keep up with the changing technology.

"And every time I do I'll let my dad hit it and he'll say how good it felt," Gary said. "Then he wants to get a new one because he wants to hit the ball just a little farther. He's so competitive."

Kenny Squires is a former president of Plastic Fabricating Company and a Navy veteran who left North after his junior year in 1943 to join. In his youth, he was a standout boxer and, to hear those who were around then talk, one of the best athletes and toughest guys in Wichita.

"And I'm still competitive," he said. "That's how I've always been when I played anything."

But Squires is also a gentleman, said Dick Jorgensen, who has been in Squires' playing group for more than a decade.

"I met Kenny at Willowbend, we started playing together and we just stayed together," Jorgensen said. "I enjoy playing golf with him. He's not throwing clubs or cursing or anything like that. And he's just a phenomenal golfer."

Jorgensen remembers a tournament a decade or so ago at Hesston. He said Squires shot a 73 the first day, a 69 the second and was the medalist -- in his late 70s -- for the 50-and-over tournament.

"He's lost some distance -- we all do as we get older," Jorgensen said of Squires. "But he's always in the fairway."

Squires' golf success is a testament to his athletic ability. Yes, even 89-year-olds can be athletes.

But it's also a testament to golf, which happens to be the game Squires uses to stay active.

"Golf is what keeps him going every day," his daughter, Karla said. "That's what he looks forward to and it's what gets him up and around. Golf is his passion and it always has been. But I think now it is his purpose."

This article was written by Bob Lutz from The Wichita Eagle and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.