Octogenarian golf group keeps on teeing it up

By Steve Pajak
Published on
Octogenarian golf group keeps on teeing it up

There are not many golfers around who Yozo Yamada can call an "old fart."

Dorsey Sue is one. Sue takes it as a compliment, considering the alternative.

"'Old fart' is a good name," he said.

He's not done with Yamada, though.

"I may be older, but you look way older than I do."

Yamada and Sue are 89, but harkening back to when they were kids and knew their half birthdays, they're again aware of their ages to the month and week. As in, Yamada makes it clear that Sue is 2 1/2 months the oldest.

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And so the ribbing goes every Thursday when a group that consists almost exclusively of golfers over 80 congregates at a Sacramento-area course. The group doesn't have a name and doesn't have a leader. It is made up of Americans of Japanese and Chinese descent, except for the odd occasion when Joe Smith plays.

The group has been around since at least 1980, the best anyone can remember. It loosely continues a long tradition of Asian American golf clubs that were prevalent early in the 20th century when Americans of Asian descent were barred from joining country clubs.

Yamada and Sue, who've been retired longer than Jordan Spieth has been alive, joined the group in the mid-1980s. The group's unifying element?

"The game of golf," Yamada said. "Sunshine and a little exercise."

Every Thursday morning like clockwork, that day's carpool drivers collect members of their pod, then head to the course -- the Reserve in Stockton on the first Thursday of the month, Dry Creek on the second, Teal Bend on the third and Wildhorse on the fourth. The weekly group numbers between 12 and 20.

Cards are drawn at the course to determine the pairings and away they go. There may be a swig of brandy or scotch on a chilly winter morning and a pitcher of beer post round, but they're not big drinkers. Every player puts $5 into the pot to be divided by low net and skins winners, but they're not big gamblers. Moderation got them this far.

Most are are slightly hunched. Their hair is gray, at least the ones who still have hair. Their eyesight isn't what it once was and a few are hard of hearing. Sue swears he's shrinking a half-inch per doctor visit.

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But all in all, their shoulder turns are impressive, they smack it good and they're a lot healthier than most people their age.

"The only iron I pump is in vitamin pills," Jack Miura, 85, said.

"Golf makes you forget about your aches and pains," Larry Won, 80, said.

All have established handicaps between 12 and 30 and play from forward tees. About half the group plays with a towel dangling from a back pocket for that authentic old-school look. They all ride in carts as a concession to their age and for the sake of pace of play.

The other constants are big smiles and lots of laughter. Yukking it up is par for the course.

There's been more funerals in the past few years than they would like. Physical ailments and the loss of driving privileges have forced a few to drop out. The group's two players younger than 80 are 78 and 79, but Chuck Kobayashi, 82, remains optimistic regarding the group's future. He's amenable to new blood; he's just not ready to skew too young too fast.

"No people in their 60s because they're too good," he said.

This article was written by Steve Pajak from The Sacramento Bee and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.