You’ve got to think that one of the most difficult golf titles to defend is any one with the word “Senior” in it. The winner has grown a year older and there’s a whole new flock of recently age-qualified “seniors” coming into the field.
The last time Florida’s Senior Amateur title was defended successfully was 1989 when Tampa’s Dick Goerlich backed up his 1988 title. Therefore, it might seem reasonable that some not-so-young Turk is going to announce himself as the new sheriff in town at this year’s event.
There’s one golfer who might not buy into this premise though, and that’s Dr. Jim Carley, the defending champion. That might sound like pie-in-the-sky thinking, considering he’ll be 66 when he’s announced on the first tee April 10 at Lake Wales Country Club.
One advantage Dr. Carley might have on the field is the “Dr.” preceding his name, as in M.D. As a practicing cardiologist, he is well aware of what has to be done to stave off the negative effects of age advancement.
“Because I am a cardiologist,” he said, “I am attuned to what has to be done to stay healthy and that does make a difference; but because I do work full time, it’s hard to get to the gym as often as I’d like. I’m fortunate that I’ve never been overweight. I eat smart and I walk when I play golf as much as I can, but that’s often tough to do in Florida for a lot of reasons because of the revenue the clubs get from carts.
“Basically, I do as much walking as I can and I do a lot aerobic work and stretching to protect myself against injuries. I try to keep as fit as I can.”
Last year, Carley not only won the Senior Amateur title, it was a tour de force. His 54-hole total of 8-under-par 204 at the Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club in Sarasota stands as a tournament record. The previous low winning score was 212, recorded by Jim Applegate at Port Charlotte’s Riverwood in 2001 and Dan Meinert at Ponte Vedra Beach’s Marsh Landing in 2003. This championship was extended to 54 holes of medal play in 1986.
“I’ve been very, very fortunate in this tournament,” Carley said. “The three years before I’d finished fifth, second and fourth. I really didn’t think about winning because I was 65 and there were a lot of guys who were 10 years younger than I was and they hit the ball a lot farther.
“I wasn’t playing all that well coming into the tournament, but I caught a key to my swing on the driving range and it served me well.”
With the title in tow, a lot of doors were opened to Carley and that was the most gratifying benefit to his 2011 victory.
“I was invited to play in the North/South Senior Amateur Championship,” he said, “and I won the Super Senior Division. Also, I’ve met and played golf with a lot of wonderful people. It’s been a wonderful time. I was happy to have played well and over my head last year and never made any major mistakes.”
As for this year’s Senior Amateur, it will be a totally new experience.
“I’ve never played Lake Wales,” he said. “During my practice round, I should be able to observe enough so I’ll know what I have to do not to get in trouble. It’s a Donald Ross (designed) course, so there will be small, sloped greens and iron shots have to be precise. I’ll work on my short game between now and the tournament.”
A word of advice to the rest of the field: See that “old” guy who should be playing in the Super Senior Division? He’s not, and he’s not going to just hand over the title. You’d better bring your total game to beat him.
The team from Bluewater Bay in Niceville scored a wire-to-wire win in the Men’s Interclub Team Championship played at the Grand Cypress Golf Club and Walt Disney’s Lake Buena Vista Course, March 31-April 1.
The team from Niceville amassed 419 points in the Stableford scoring system, three ahead of the Palencia Club team from St. Augustine. The defending champion Wentworth Golf Club team from Tarpon Springs finished tied for third with Palm City’s Evergreen Club squad with 395 points.
In the Senior/Mid-Am Four-Ball championship played March 24-25 at Vero Beach CC, Don Bell, from Port Orange, teamed with Fort Lauderdale’s Rick Woulfe for an astounding 16-under-par 128 total. The key to their win was an opening round 11-under 61.
Tied for second were the teams of Frank Babusik, from Jupiter, and Palm Beach Gardens’ Robbie Dew, with Alma’s Randy Lewis and Bill Zylstra, from Ocklawaha, at 13-under 131.