Golf For A Lifetime

footballgolfThe idea of golf for a lifetime surfaced in two recent, seemingly unrelated items recently crossed my path:

In the first, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has an article about Manuel De la Torre who, at age 93 is still teaching golf at Milwaukee Country Club. De la Torre has been there for 65 years.  In the 1940s and 1950s, he competed on the PGA TOUR, playing in the era of Hogan and Snead. Over the years, De la Torre won the Wisconsin Open five times.

Many of today’s top teachers have been influenced to some degree by de la Torre’s philosophies. Before David Leadbetter became a household name, he sat in de la Torre’s PGA seminars as a young teacher living out of his car.

De la Torre no longer can stand for hours on the practice range at Milwaukee CC, but he wants to stay active and give at least a few lessons a week. Students don’t have to be club members to arrange lessons but in most cases they will have to transport him to and from the club.

He hopes there’s still a demand for his services.

“If people want help,” he said, “I am very willing to help.”

The second item was a quote from NFL great Mike Ditka in which he suggested that parents encourage their children to play golf instead of football.

I would never discourage my son from playing football or baseball or anything else, but I would probably say, ‘Hey, listen, you ought to try golf. I think that’s what’s going to happen to a degree.

That is a pretty incredible statement from a guy who one of just two people to win an NFL title as a player, an assistant coach, and a head coach (the other is Tom Flores). But given what we know about concussions and other football injuries, perhaps Ditka now thinks differently about the sacrifices he made with his body.

The intersection of these two articles is lies in the notion of golf as a sport for life. De la Torre, at 93 is still teaching the game. I regularly play with guys in their 70s and 80s — many of whom still walk the course. Ditka, on the other hand, would steer his children away the sport in which he made his name. No one is still playing football in their fifties, let alone sixties or older. I suppose that there may be geriatric flag football leagues somewhere, but I can’t imagine there are very many.

Injuries are as much as part of golf as other sports — just ask Tiger Woods, or Fred Couples, or Michele Wie — but they’re an altogether different sort. Golfers do not normally get injured as a result of speedy collisions with other players intent on preventing scoring.

In this, then, is an opportunity for the sport of golf.  Given its more gentle nature, golf can position itself as an alternative to the contact sports that now have many parents frightened. The industry should make the case that golf is a sport that people can enjoy for life.


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