100 years in the making, golfer finally plays Pinehurst |The Spirit of Golf

Dr. M.O. Owens plays Pinehurst No. 2
Courtesy David Belle Isle
Dr. M.O. Owens celebrated turning 100 with a visit to Pinehurst No. 2 golf course
By John Kim

Series: Spirit of Golf

Published: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 | 10:51 a.m.

At what age is it too late to quit chasing your golf dreams?

Before you answer, meet Dr. M.O. Owens.

The Gastonia, N.C. pastor recently celebrated his 100th birthday in the grandest of ways -- a round of golf with three friends at famed Pinehurst No. 2 golf course in Pinehurst, N.C. It was the first time that the avid golfer and recent centurion had played the historic course.

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"The round was a gift from the members of the church for my birthday," he said. "It was a really nice present, a wonderful way to celebrate turning 100. I had visited Pinehurst a few times, seen the U.S. Opens there in 1999 and 2005, and even played the No. 8 course -- but this was my first time on No. 2."

And was the round worth waiting 100 years?

"It was a great time," he said with a big smile after the round. "I didn't play as well I would have liked, but just being here and getting a chance to play such a wonderful course -- that's really special."

Pinehurst Resort certainly thought it was special.

"One of the great joys of golf is that it is a game that lasts a lifetime," said Don Padgett II, President of Pinehurst Resort. "Dr. Owens is a remarkable man, and through his tremendous faith and belief in others, has made a lasting impression on countless lives. It was an inspiring moment to watch him enjoy his round of Pinehurst No. 2."

Dr. M.O. Owens is a pastor by trade and calling, but his heart has room for golf.

Lots of golf.

Dr. Owens first started playing golf as a teenager in Taylors, S.C.

"There was a course, a small 9-hole course with sand greens, that was free for anyone that lived in the area to go play. So I did. I only owned two clubs -- a 7-iron and a putter -- but that didn't stop me from playing as much as I could."

And Dr. Owens has been playing ever since.

"Golf is just a great time. I've always said you need two things to enjoy golf. One, the ability to relax completely. And two, the ability to concentrate totally. It sounds like a contrast but it really isn't. And that's part of what makes the game so great."

Dr. Owens shares the benefits of golf with the same joy he shares the gospel.

"We have a group of members at the church, about 20-25 guys, that go out and play every Tuesday. They travel around to different courses and just have the greatest time. I try to join them as much as I can. It's a great place to be. Sometimes, I can't go because of other obligations -- but if I can make it, I always do because it's such an enjoyable experience.

He has a wealth of great stories from his 100 years but one collectible he has certainly stands out. Dr. Owens owns a gold-plated putter that once belonged to famed golfer Babe Zaharias.

"It was a gift from a lady, a neighbor, who knew Babe and knew how much I loved golf," he says. "It's a piece of golf history and I do really appreciate it."

Dr. Owens certainly appreciates history. In early November, he found himself on his way to his alma mater -- Furman University -- to attend his graduating class' 80th year reunion. He is the sole surviving member of that class.

"It's always fun to go back," he says of his collegiate reunions. "It's not about celebrating what you've done, it's about celebrating the journey to get there."

The same could be said for his recent round at Pinehurst.

Related: More on Dr. Owens round at Pinehurst here.

In 2014, Pinehurst No. 2 will host both the men's and women's U.S. Opens, a feat that's never been done before. And though Dr. M.O. Owens may never hoist a major championship trophy, his presence and his game will leave an indelible mark on golf and at Pinehurst in a way that celebrates the game far more than most could ever dream. Not in a hundred years. 

The Spirit of Golf is a celebration of the most important stories in golf - your stories. Though magical moments are associated with major championships or the Ryder Cup - the very best times are found when playing with family, friends, in helping a greater cause or traveling to a bucket list course. We invite all golfers to read, share and contribute their own great memories as we all work together to enjoy the "Spirit of Golf".  If you have a good story for the "Spirit of Golf" - you can contact John Kim at john.kim@pga.com