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Try senior golf—You’ll have a ball

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By Elsa Bonstein, Golf Gab

For more than 25 years, Brunswick County Parks and Recreation has been bringing senior golf to folks 55 or older. Each year, golfers within the county gather once a month to golf, experience new golf courses and make new friends.
Handicaps are not required; the competition is medal (scratch) play in age-designated flights starting at 55 and going up in five-year increments (55-59, 60-64, 65-69, etc.).
Fees range from $40 and $45 a round for some of the best courses in Brunswick County, including Thistle, Tigers Eye, Cape Fear National, the Players Club at St. James and Crow Creek.
Other special senior golf tournaments include a scramble/captain’s choice July 17 at The Lakes for $28, and a day of golf Oct. 9 at Bald Head Island for $90, which covers the ferry ride, cart and green fee and a boxed lunch.
Khrystye Haselden is the gal in charge of it. A vivacious brunette with a warm smile and a gift of gab, she makes the arrangements, takes entries and runs each tournament. Haselden is qualified to work with seniors. She received a bachelor’s in gerontology from the University of North Carolina Charlotte and then worked with various department of aging and adult services before coming to work at the Brunswick County Parks and Recreation Department in 2002. In 2012, she received her certified parks and recreation professional certification from the National Recreation and Parks Association.
Best of all, she loves her job and interacts well with senior golfers. One elderly gentleman gave her a hug, turned to me and said, “I only do these things to see Khrystye.”
Last Wednesday at Oak Island Club, I watched senior golf and Haselden in action. Everyone was having a great time and no one looked her or his age. If this is what golf does, I want to play more.
“Senior golf is a great way to meet people, especially for those who are new to the community,” Haselden said. “Participants don’t have to belong to a club or have an established handicap. They just sign up, show up and play. Senior golfers can sign up in a group, or if they don’t have a foursome, we’ll pair them up.”
Vicky Beech was there for the first time. She is 72 and lives in Sunset Beach for part of the year. The rest of the time she is in California.
“I started playing golf two years ago, and this sounded like a good way to get into golf in this area with all the different courses available,” she said. “My brother, Pete Costan, is here, too, and that’s great because my husband cannot play golf right now because of a bad back.”
Vicky and her brother are from Freeport, Pa., and are Steeler fans. Since my husband’s family is from the Pittsburgh area, we started comparing notes and discovered they know my husband’s cousin Dennis, who lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C. What a small world. I was told this kind of thing happens often with senior golf.
As I walked around meeting the golfers, I met another Steeler fan, Chuck Windham.
“I learned to play golf as a caddie at the Montour Country Club, near Pittsburgh,” he said. “I used to carry 18 holes for $1.25 a bag. I liked caddying for the ladies because their bags were so much lighter. I’m 82 years old and still enjoy the game.”
Two gentlemen, Buck and Bud Sexton, are the patriarchs of senior golf, according to Haselden.  
Buck, the older brother, lives in Holden Beach. “I’m 86 years old and I’ve been playing in these tournaments for over 20 years,” he said. “I love it to death. It’s so much fun because folks from all over Brunswick County gather once a month to play golf together.”
Buck is from Trinity and learned to play golf when he was 48.
“I learned to love the game right away,” he said, “and I’m still playing.”
Brother Bud Sexton is 78 and learned the game after he retired. Both brothers worked as mechanics for Peterbilt trucks and now they’re playing golf together in Brunswick County.  
All of the folks I spoke with told me how much they enjoyed senior golf. Many have made new friends through the game and enjoy getting together each month to play.
“It’s not about winning, it’s about getting out and being social and playing golf,” Haselden said. “In each flight, first place gets a sleeve of balls, second place gets two golf balls and the third place winner gets one golf ball. We mix men and women together and we provide everyone with water and a snack before they go out.”
Senior golf may not be a terribly serious competition, but there were many people on the practice tee, the chipping area and the putting green before the start of play. I guess they were all getting warmed up.
I called Beech a few days after the tournament to find out how she had liked her first senior golf event.  
“I loved it,” she said. “The course was beautiful and everything was so well-organized. The food in the restaurant was great. I’m definitely playing again.” 
So, if you’re 55 or older, sign up for senior golf. Besides the two tournaments already mentioned, others are June 12 at the Players at St. James, Aug. 20 at Magnolia Greens, Sept. 24 at Carolina National, Oct. 23 at Lockwood Folly, Nov. 20 at Crow Creek and Dec. 10 at Rivers Edge.
Each year, a qualifying tournament for the North Carolina Senior Games takes place and the winners move on to play in the state finals in Winston-Salem in October. This qualifying event this year was April 25 at the Oak Island Club.
For more information on Brunswick County senior golf, contact Haselden at either (910) 253-2670 or khaselden@brunsco.net.     

Golf Gab groaner
Annie, in tears, called her best friend, moaning that her husband had left her.
“Don’t be so upset,” counseled the friend. “That scoundrel has left you countless times before and every time he comes begging you to take him back.”
“This time is different,” sobbed Annie. “This time he took his golf clubs.”
(From “501 Golf Jokes for (Almost) All Occasions,” by Franklin Dohanyos)

Elsa Bonstein is a golf columnist for The Beacon. Reach her at elanbon@atmc.net.