Birch Ridge Golf Course ripe for peninsula seniors

Posted: Sunday, July 30, 2000

Horse racing is the sport of kings and golf is the game of retired gentlemen.

"We're grumpy old men," Sam Best said Friday during day two of the Peninsula Senior Open at Birch Ridge Golf Course.

57 golfers, men and women all over the age of 50, competed in the tournament.

Best, who runs the pro shop at Birch Ridge, said he believes golf's popularity is increasing among senior citizens.

"I've had to make a lot more clubs for seniors," he said.

Senior Open organizer Mo Redford said Friday he was happy with the way the event was going.

"The camaraderie of the seniors is great," he said. "Everybody that I've golfed with has loved the tourney. The course is in its prime. We're hitting it at its best."

Carolyn Buxton continued her domination of Birch Ridge, finishing the 54 holes in 133 strokes. She led the Women's Jr. Division by 7.

In the Women's Sr. Division, Chiya Bazan shot a 139, slipping by Louise Schadle by three strokes.

The competition for first place in the junior senior champion flight provided some of the day's best entertainment.

"These guys are fun," Peninsula Amateur Golf champion Paul Buxton said. "I'm always gentlemanly to my elders."

It could have been Buxton's good nature that got him into trouble with returning Senior Open champion Jesse Wade.

"As we get older our game slows down. You start loosing coordination and strength," Wade said. "I'm not as calm and under control as I used to be."

Wade was calm enough to challenge Buxton to a playoff for the championship, even though he hadn't played the course since last year. Both men had shot a 162.

The sudden-death tie-breaker took place on hole three, a 405-yard par 4. Both men repeatedly pitched shots into the trees, Buxton crisscrossing from left to right, Wade mirroring him right to left.

Four yards from the hole, Buxton missed his putt, allowing Wade to sink his shot after five strokes.

"This really shows you the caliber of our seniors," Redford said. "Our champion in the PenAm gets second."

"You can't win them all," Buxton said.

Noel Widmayer was playing his best throughout the event. He entered day two trailing Master Senior Champion flight leader Butch Anderson by one stroke.

"All you have to do is hit the ball on the green," Widmayer said. "It comes with practice."

Widmayer said that golfers do not even have to leave their homes to practice drills.

"You can putt on the patio or in the bedroom," he said.

Widmayer's discipline and commitment come from experience. He doesn't mind being called a senior citizen.

"It's a helluva lot better than old fogy," he said.

Jerry Norris said he'd rather be called Kid than Senior. Norris displayed the energy of a kid as he galloped through the woods helping his friends find stray balls.

"I don't mind going in. I like it. It's like finding Easter Eggs. I find a lot. I never have to buy balls," he said.

One man who did his best to stay out of the rough was Bill Ratke.

"We were just looking for ladies' balls," he said after emerging from the trees on the left side of hole one.

Ratke retired from teaching at Kenai Middle School last year and is planning to run cross-country in Australia. Until then, he said he enjoys patrolling the golf course at Birch Ridge.

"Golf is about companionship and good weather," he said.

Another retired educator competing in the Peninsula Senior Open was former Kenai Peninsula Borough School District superintendent John Dahlgren.

"I came out with great anticipation," Dahlgren said. "Birdies and bogies. This is what retirement is all about."

Don Morgan works at the Kenai Golf Course, but that didn't stop him from admiring the greens at Birch Ridge.

"The course is in great shape," he said.

Morgan said he enjoys playing golf at Birch Ridge because he is able to relax and not worry about maintenance. He said work keeps him too busy to play golf as often as he'd like.

"It's a game of hand-eye coordination and etiquette," he said. "They've got volumes of rules. The senior group has been doing this for a while and they know the rules."

Gene Kallus said he understands the importance of rules and appropriate golf behavior.

"The great thing for all people, especially kids, is how this game teaches courtesy, etiquette and manners. It builds character," he said.

Numerous seniors said they would advise people to take up golf at a young age.

"Flexibility is important," Packy Dick said.

"Turn your shoulders and hips, that's what generates power," Carl Christensen, a veteran of the Korean War said. "I just use my arms."

Dick said golfers with arms as big as Christensen's can rely on those muscles, but added that grace is as important as strength.

"Swing at the ball. Don't just hit it," Dick said.

When the golfers finished the tournament's 36 holes, they gathered under the pavilion to eat hot dogs and sandwiches.

A raffle was held and Richard Atuk won a set of Newmax golf clubs from the pro shop. Atuk said he was impressed with the clubs' design.

"Look at the cavity in the head," he said. "I'll have to try them out."

Between prizes and mouthfuls of lunch the men and women exchanged old stories.

Best said he remembers helping out at Birch Ridge in 1987, during the construction of the driving range.

"We used an auger to dig the holes," he said.

Best spent time pouring concrete and drilling holes during the project.

"Sometimes I figure I have to go back to work to get some rest," he said.

Peninsula Senior Open

Thursday and Friday at Birch Ridge Golf Course

Men's Masters Championship Flight

Noel Widmayer 82-88 -- 170

Pat Cowan 84-88 -- 172

Clint Reese 90-83 -- 173

Jerry Norris 83-93 -- 176

Butch Anderson 81-95 -- 176

Mo Redford 88-89 -- 177

Spence Devito 92-90 -- 182

Jesse Lee 95-80 -- 183

Men's Masters First Flight

Dave Keating 81-86 -- 167

Packy Dick 95-90 -- 185

Phil Turkington 91-95 -- 186

Carl Christensen 97-94 -- 191

Dave Stein 91-101 -- 192

Don McGhee 96-97 -- 193

John Horwath 94-100 -- 194

Andy Anderson 97-104 -- 201

Men's Masters Second Flight

Jerry Swanson 100-98 -- 198

Sam Best 102-102 -- 204

Gene Skinner 104-104 -- 208

George Navarre 106-110 -- 216

Chuck Obendorf 105-112 -- 217

Clair Sanadle 103-123 -- 226

Don McKendry 115-131 -- 246 Women's Junior Division

Carolyn Buxton 66-67 -- 133

Linda Murphy 68-72 -- 140

Sharon Keating 64-78 -- 142

Terry Mattison 76-68 -- 144

Myrna Cowan 76-79 -- 155

June Stucky 78-83 -- 161

Women's Masters Division

Chiya Bazan 67-72 -- 139

Louise Schadle 70-72 -- 142

Pat Bird 72-77 -- 149

Betty Skinner 68-81 -- 149

Jan Stenga 74-78 -- 152

Helen Chenault 78-82 -- 160 Men's Junior Championship Flight

Jesse Wade 83-79 -- 162

Paul Buxton 79-83 -- 162

Gordon Griffin 81-86 -- 167

John Dahlgren 84-88 -- 172

Dean Alt 88-84 -- 172

Tom Allison 83-89 -- 172

Duke Mattison 87-87 -- 174

Gordy Sanbern 87-94 -- 181 Men's Junior First Flight

Darrell Jelsma 80-85 -- 165

Steve Hammerstrom 88-93 -- 181

Don Morgan 92-91 -- 183

Bob Haggarthy 91-93 -- 184

John Davis 85-106 -- 191

Dan Bill 95-96 -- 191

Rick Dauning 96-104 -- 200

Bill Artland 100-115 -- 215

Men's Junior Second Flight

Paul Sopchak 85-87 -- 176

Bob Bush 90-90 -- 180

Gene Friendsha 93-92 -- 185

Gene Kallus 98-89 -- 187

Bill Ratke 91-102 -- 193

Richard Atuk 106-101 -- 207

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