EVERETT — Some bright sunshine, a beautiful golf course and the company of good friends. For those who love golf, it all adds up to a great day.
And for a group of elderly Everett men, that same formula has been working for upwards of two decades. It works well enough that they come back every Friday, even in the winter months when the sunshine is iffy.
Proving that golf is a sport for all ages, the trio of 83-year-old John Clark, 85-year-old Don Hofstrand and Veryl Nelson, a remarkably spry 96, is still hooking up for weekly games at Legion Memorial Golf Course.
Yes, they have made certain concessions to age. They used to play three times a week, but now just once. They have moved forward from the white tees to the yellow tees. They have dropped their games from 18 holes to nine holes. And the group had a longtime fourth member, but he had to drop out a year ago.
But despite the changes, the three men still crave the camaraderie, not to mention the joy of playing a game they love.
“It’s exercise and the most beautiful scenery you’ll ever find,” said Clark, who spent his working years with Safeco Insurance. “It’s just a good, good thing.”
“The score doesn’t mean anything to me anymore,” said Nelson, a former optometrist. “It’s just nice to be out here.”
There are groups like this at golf courses all around Snohomish County, of course. What makes this threesome unique are the ages, and particular Nelson, who turns 97 in November. A player who’s been down more fairways than most of us can imagine, he still plays a respectable game. Certainly not long, but usually down the middle.
“Veryl is 96 years old and he can beat me in golf,” Clark said. “Can you imagine that? He’s something else. He’s very inspiring.”
“Veryl has a real good swing,” said Hofstrand, a former engineer with GTE. “He always plays really well. And he looks forward to it all week long. He can’t wait to get out here on Friday.”
Though the three men dutifully record their scores, they play only for fun. No money changes hands and no one pays for the refreshments after the round.
“Veryl and I have a little competition,” said Hofstrand, who shares a cart with Nelson. “He’ll keep our score and at the end of the day, he’ll say ‘I beat you by one stroke’ or ‘You beat me by two strokes.’ And that’s it. That’s all the competition there is.”
All three men credit golf with keeping them fit. Hofstrand lives in an Everett retirement home and says many of his fellow residents “are running around there with walkers. But I don’t want to get to that stage yet. I (sometimes) use a cane out there, but I try to get around without it.
“I’ve always been active — I used to ski and all that stuff — so it was just a natural thing to play golf. And I think I’m a lot healthier from being out here. I’m quite flexible. I can really do a lot of twisting and turning.”
Added Clark, who still walks the course, “Before I retired, I used to just sit and watch football games and drink beer over the weekend. And sometimes my back would be so stiff that I couldn’t get out of the chair.” His wife encouraged him to play golf, “and it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
The question, of course, is how long these men can keep playing. Put another way, at what age does someone get too old for golf?
Clark has a quick reply. “You’re never too old for golf,” he said. “I’ll play as long as I can. Because that’s the one thing I still look forward to, is playing golf.”
“I’ll just keep going as long as I can afford to do it,” Hofstrand said. “Because we’re all just tickled to death to be out here.”
As for Nelson, “I’m amazed that I can still get out here at my age,” he said. “But I don’t think I’m too old. If I get to the point where I can’t walk, then I’ll probably quit. But I’ll keep it up as long as I can.”