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I love talking to enthusiastic, optimistic, dedicated people and, quite frankly, there’s a bunch of them right here in Brunswick County.
Many of our retirees have second careers and whole new outlooks on life. Some have gone back to college; others are in the creative arts working in oils, pastels, pottery, sculpting and photography. Others write novels, memoirs and poetry.
Many folks, old and young, settle on the Carolina coast after living and working in other parts of the country, even other parts of the world.
Such a man is Steve White, golf pro and manager of The Lakes Country Club and Old Fort Golf Club. He loves what he’s doing, but in addition to his golf business, Steve has a whole new lease on life through triathlon competition.
First the golf: “Golf courses in this area are seeing the end of the slide,” he said as we chatted on The Lakes’ clubhouse deck overlooking Boiling Spring Lake last week. “The steady decreases in play that we experienced in the last few years are gone; we’re seeing more golfers and more interest in the game of golf.”
Steve prides himself on running two friendly, inexpensive golf operations.
“Old Fort gets about 60 percent of its play from Wilmington,” he said. “On recent weekends when the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge has been closed for renovations, we actually have golfers who take the ferry to get to Old Fort. Others drive longer routes, but they still tee off.”
“Both courses are plain old-fashioned designs without a lot of extras. Old Fort is like a course from the turn of the century or a village in Ireland. No irrigation, no impossible carries, and fast-paced play. A lot of people walk and most folks play in three and one-half hours or less.”
Because the overhead is not huge, Steve manages to keep the rates down.
“We used to have varying rates for different seasons, weekends versus weekdays, resident and non-resident players. Recently, we decided to give everyone the same local rate year round.”
That rate at The Lakes is a comfortable $30 per round including cart in the morning and $23 in the afternoon. Old Fort is $27 and $23.
“People like our courses because there is no intimidation factor. That’s great for beginners, kids or adults who would like to get back into golf. Summer visitors come because they can bring the whole family without paying a fortune.
“We do have memberships and our members are a fun group. At the club championship this year, the winner filled the trophy with margaritas and passed it around. Everyone had a great time.”
Adding to Steve’s usual enthusiasm is new lease on life through sports.
“Several years ago, I decided to stop smoking and when I did, I put on 30 or 40 pounds. I didn’t want to go back to cigarettes, so the only way for me to keep off the weight was to exercise, to become more active. I got into CrossFit Training and loved it.”
Along the way, Steve met other people who were into fitness training and soon he was part of an association called Without Limits.
“It’s a great group in Wilmington. Tom Clifford is the head coach. They train people for success in triathlons. We have coaches for each of the disciplines and now I work out with teams of people five days a week. On Tuesday and Thursday, we run, other days we bike or we swim at the UNCW pool. This morning I got up at 5:45 so I could go to running practice before I came to work.”
Steve’s wife, Jacqui is a distance runner and competed in the Boston and Chicago marathons among others. She encouraged Steve to start running and to get fit.
“Years ago, when Jacqui ran a marathon, I would follow with a cooler of Bloody Marys,” Steve said. “I was known as the ‘smoker with the booze.’ Now, when I run a triathlon, Jacqui has an ice bath ready for me with a scented candle and cooler of beer next to it.”
Steve competes in Ironman 70.3 competitions. The “70.3” refers to the total distance in miles covered in the race (1.2 mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run) which is half the distance of a regular Iron triathlon.
This past year, Steve won two events in his age group and qualified for nationals.
“That was a whole new level of competition,” he said. “The event took place in Vermont in August. I’d looked at everyone’s stats online and thought I was pretty good. When I got up there and had to run up and down those hills, it was a whole new ball game.
“People take these races very seriously. Some guys travel with masseuses and personal trainers. The guy across the hall from me had a very expensive electronic muscle stimulator in his room. It was fun to meet people at that level of competition.”
Steve practices between 12-70 hours a week when he’s preparing for an Ironman competition.
“It sounds like a lot of time, but think of how long three or four rounds of golf a week take.”
One of the highlights each year is the “Beach2Battleship” competition in Wilmington. Steve has competed in it for the past two years.
“This year’s race is on Oct. 20 and folks come from all over to be part of it. Because the land is flat, athletes can post excellent times in both running and cycling. In addition, the swim follows the incoming tide, so everyone can get a great time there.”
Triathlon Magazine named Beach2Battleship one of the top five competitions of its kind in the world.
The No Limits group practices year round, according to Steve. Ice baths are good after a race or training session, so the entire group sometimes jumps into the freezing cold water when they’re done for the day.
“Imagine 40 people standing in the water in January,” said Steve. “Since I got into fitness and triathlons, I found a whole new world and now I’m connected with like-minded people. I feel wonderful and weight is no longer a problem for me.”
Steve has a wonderful sense of humor. Each fall when The Lakes Country Club overseeds its greens, Steve stops shaving until the grass has grown in. He looked very modern and scruffy last week.
He rubbed his cheeks and said, “I can’t shave until the grass is in. It’s tradition.”
Golf Gab groaner
I felt like my body was totally out of shape, so I got my doctor’s permission to join a fitness club and start exercising regularly. I decided to take an aerobics class for seniors. I bent, twisted, gyrated, jumped up and down and perspired for an hour. But, by the time I got my leotard on, the class was over.
Elsa Bonstein is a golf columnist for The Beacon. Reach her at email@example.com. Follow her at facebook.com/elsa.bonstein.