For a few elite golfers shooting their age is easy, but most who have ever picked up a club will never manage the milestone feat.
The secret to shooting your age for 18 holes on a 6,000-yard course (typically the accepted standard for the accomplishment) is really no secret at all.
A golfer must stay healthy into their later years, play decent golf, and have a certain amount of coordination and good luck.
On Saturday, July 28 it all came together for 82-year-old Platteville resident and long-time golf enthusiast Jack Kirby. While golfing with three of his high school classmates at the Stoughton Golf & Country Club a day before his 65-year class reunion Kirby joined the elite club every golfer dreams about by shooting his age with an 11-over par round of 82.
He parred holes two, six and nine, and recorded six bogeys to post a relatively clean front nine score of 41.
After a par on hole 10, Kirby took a triple bogey on 11, but recovered with back-to-back pars. On the par 5, 498-yard 15th Kirby reached the hole in four, scoring his lone birdie of the round.
Back-to-back pars on 16 and 17 left Kirby with a 76 and six strokes to hole out the par 4, 401-yard 18th to achieve the incredible individual feat. With a double bogey on the final hole Kirby had done it.
“I didn’t even know if we were going to play 18 holes when I showed up that day,” said Kirby. “I knew I was putting well and thought I was having a decent round, but I typically don’t total up my score until the final hole. I didn’t realize until that last hole that I had a chance.
After he holed his final putt, Kirby was understandably thrilled.
“I was pretty excited, obviously, and I indicated that to a couple of people. There are other exciting experiences in golf too, like holes-in-one and golfing under par, but this is right up there.”
Two days later he nearly did it again when he shot an 84 at Wolf Hollow in Lena, Ill.
Kirby is a retired college professor, who taught technology education, industrial technology, drafting and aviation for 29 years at UW–Platteville. He has a 21 handicap and still plays three times a week, but claims he’s not really a good golfer.
“I’m a fair golfer that just enjoys playing the game,” said Kirby. “I’ve never been what I would consider a good golfer, but I had a day where it all came together.”
Kirby never played golf in high school — Stoughton didn’t have a golf team in the late 1940s. In fact, he didn’t start playing the sport regularly until the mid ’50s, when he was stationed at Ft. Benning, Geor. while in the Army during 1955–56.
“I always wanted to play, but I couldn’t afford it until then,” Kirby said.
He never took a lesson and never had a coach. He just learned by playing and watching others.
“I just went out and golfed,” Kirby added. “Over the years I picked up tips here and there from the people I played with. People always tell you things. They always do.”
Kirby has golfed in Platteville’s Wednesday Night League, along with long-time friend Dwayne Stuelke, since he came to Platteville in 1965.
“We won [the league] a few times, but not because of me, mostly because of Dwayne,” joked Kirby. “Just don’t look at the standings this year.”
He also plays out of town every Tuesday with Stuelke at one of Platteville’s reciprocity sister courses. He also plays a weekly round with the same group of guys on Thursday men’s day.
“It’s good exercise,” Kirby said of playing golf regularly. “And it gets me out in the open air.”
Kirby stays in shape by walking around Smith Park in the mornings of his non-golf days.
He and his wife Nancy winter in Sun City Center, Flo. — near Tampa Bay — and plays two or three times a week there as well.
“I just like the camaraderie with other people and I like to compete for a few ‘pennies’ here and there,” Kirby added.