|- A Community Golf Treasure|
|- By Sean Melia, Contributing Writer|
|- The Community Golf Course in Dayton, Ohio is home to two golfers who have been playing golf for more than a combined 100 years. Barb Redenbo, 89, and Ginny Gearhart, 95, have played golf all over the world and made myriad friends along the way.|
Similar to most golfers, their stories wind and weave and stop and start. They each learned the game at very different times in their lives but still find joy playing a game they love.
Barb first played golf in 1944 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Barb was 12 years old.
“My father decided I needed to learn the game. I was invited to play with his foursome. With the permission of the pro, I could tee off and I was allowed to putt.”
Barb didn’t just play golf with her father, she took lessons and played on her high school girls’ golf team for three years. She also played in city tournaments and spent three summers playing golf nearly every day.
“My dad would take me to the golf course every day with a bagged lunch during the summer. He would drop me off. I went to the practice range, I played some golf, I took some lessons. My dad would pick me up after his work.”
The idea of a teenage girl playing golf in the 1940s seems like a rarity, but Barb said the club and golfing community was very welcoming. Like any young golfers, they were coached to keep up the pace of play and mind their manners, but Barb didn’t have any negative stories about grumpy golfers running her and her team off the course.
Golf was a bit different in the 1940s than it is now. The greens at her home course, Pioneer
Golf Club, the oldest course in Lincoln, required player maintenance before they could hit their putts.
“The greens were all sand. We had a big rake and when we got to the greens we had to drag the sand away from the ball and then back to the ball,” Barb said.
Ginny, on the other hand, started playing golf later in life.
“I walked with my husband while he was golfing, and finally one day after about a year he said, ‘Do you want to try to hit it?’ and that’s how I got started.” That was around 1980 at Community Golf Course. Ginny was 54 years old.
After refusing a few invitations to join one of Community’s leagues because she didn’t think she was good enough, she decided to give it a try.
“It took a while for me to get started, I just wasn’t that good,” Ginny said. A statement most golfers can relate to.
Ginny grew up with five brothers and one sister.
“I was interested in all sports,” Ginny said about her childhood. She particularly liked basketball. “I was like a tomboy.”
Golf was never on her family’s radar. They didn’t have access or the money to play. Now at family reunions about 30 of her family play golf, including her two brothers who are also in their 90s.
“One brother lives in Florida and plays every day. I’m jealous,” Ginny said with a laugh.
Over the course of their lives, golf has brought joy to Ginny and Barb. They have formed friendships and traveled all over the world to play golf.
Ginny was a part of a small group that called themselves the “Putterbusters.” They’d travel somewhere each year to play golf, enjoy each other’s company, and have a few of Ginny’s favorite drink: a vodka tonic.
Not to be outdone, in the early 2000s Barb took a trip of a lifetime with a group of senior citizens to Scotland; she played golf at St. Andrews, Prestwick, and Kings Barns.
“I had to pinch myself. The caddies at St. Andrews were wonderful. I remember choosing a club and the caddie said ‘Lassie, that will never work. From now on I’ll choose the clubs,’” Barb said laughing at the memory.
Barb did have a bit of a hiatus away from the game, however.
When she went off to the University of Nebraska to pursue a degree in nursing, Barb put away the golf clubs. The busyness of life, work, and raising a family took up too much time. Her husband, a baseball player, didn’t like golf much. He couldn’t seem to translate his baseball swing to golf.
“Naturally with having children and working, I could not say to my husband on the weekends, sorry I’m going to the golf course for five hours.”
Barb and her husband moved to Florida, and she earned her Master’s degree in teaching nursing. Living in Florida gave her a chance to rekindle her love of golf. She needed some playing partners, though.
“I put a sign up in the teachers’ lounge that said, ‘Does anyone like golf?’”
She found some fellow golfers and was back on the course.
When they relocated to Vero Beach, Barb put up another sign up at work looking for like-minded golf lovers.
Seven years ago, Barb ended up in Dayton to be closer to her daughter and is grateful for Community Golf Course.
“I was fortunate, just like Ginny, to find this wonderful league here at Community. Everyone has been very welcoming.”
Ginny and Barb’s friendship started at the aptly named Community Golf Course in Dayton. It’s the first municipal golf course in Dayton. The 36 hole facility hosts 70 leagues over the course of the year.
The two women play in a Wednesday league, and for all fun they say they have, they are also fiercely competitive.
“I always keep score. I want to know what I’m doing, good or bad,” Ginny said, almost incredulous at the idea of playing without a scorecard.
Ginny went on to tell a story about competing in the Senior Olympics in Baton Rouge. At the time, Ginny was 80 years old and she barely made it to the first tee for her round after having to catch multiple buses across town.
“After about fifteen holes I was sicker than a dog,” Ginny said. Then she leaned in as if her competitor might be listening, “But I was going to win. She wasn’t very good.”
Her playing partner could see Ginny wasn’t well, but Ginny insisted they press on and play the round. In the searing Lousiana heat, Ginny’s energy waned and her opponent called the pro shop.
When the officials came out and told Ginny she couldn’t play anymore, Ginny refused. However, the pro had the final say and Ginny didn’t finish her match.
“So I went to the hospital, and I stayed there for a couple of days,” Ginny said nonchalantly as she recalled the event. “I guess I shouldn’t have been out there. But I wanted to be.”
In October, Ginny and Barb teamed up to win the Community Cup. Like any good teammates and friends, they credited the other for the victory.
There is a youthful joy to Ginny and Barb as they speak about their memories on the golf course with friends. They are so grateful that they still have the ability to go out and play golf. Barb tallied 130 rounds in 2021. Their mindset is inspiring.
“I really like the women here in the league. They make me want to come out. I’ve been playing in this league for 41 years,” Ginny said. “They’re all great. They want to play with me, they ask me to be in their foursome. What more can I ask for? It’s so much fun. I’m looking forward to it this year”
“I love the camaraderie that I have found through golf. I’ve had the privilege to have lessons from wonderful pros or the opportunity to play in tournaments and the camaraderie at the 19th hole. I’ve been very fortunate.”
We’d all be so lucky to live half the golfing-life that Barb and Ginny have enjoyed.
|Sean Melia is a regular contributor to Miami Valley Golf and podcaster and writer for AmateurGolf.com. He played competitively in college and still tries his hand at competing every now and then, but he is usually snapping pictures of interesting holes he's playing instead of worrying too much about his score. He is currently on a quest to play all 350 golf courses in his home state of Massachusetts and chronicling it on Instagram BayState_Golf and his website. |