At 102-years-old a Jacksonville Beach golfer shows no signs of slowing down
JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. -- Like every good golf swing, there is a rhythm at Jacksonville Beach Golf Club.
That's especially true on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
"Oh yeah, we have a very regular crowd that comes every Tuesday and every Thursday," said head golf professional Sandy Suckling. "We can count on them."
Suckling has the tee sheet pretty much memorized.
He knows the first group off at 7:16 a.m. is always the Cox foursome.
"They've been playing here for 15 some odd years," Suckling said.
Just before 8:00 a.m. the Smith/
"Yeah, they've played here forever too," he said.Peterson group goes off.
But 'forever' is a relative term when compared to the group that goes off about a half hour later.
"Yes, at 8:28 we have our favorite group," Suckling said.
It's a foursome made up of friends from the last three decades.
Rick Butler, at 81-years-old the youngest of the group, has been playing with Max Greenberg since 1982.
Greenberg is 102-years-old.
"We've been playing together a long, long time," Butler said. "But, shoot, Max didn't pick up the game till he was 60."
Sure, that's late in life compared to many golfers who pick it up in their childhood years... but considering Max's age, he's been playing longer than Tiger Woods has been alive (38 years).
"I tell ya, I feel 84," Max said laughing. "I feel really good."
Billy Hernandez, 86, started playing with the guys a couple years later in 1985, he estimates.
Like clockwork, every Tuesday and Thursday, no matter the heat or cold, they are here.
The only thing that stops them is the rain.
"Yeah, each morning I'll call Max and tell him to look out the window," Hernandez said. "If it's raining, we aren't going that day."
That core trio has been playing together the longest.
They've had other golfing buddies fill in on the forth spot over the years.
But, as happens to all of us ultimately, the others' time on the course was numbered.
"Yeah, we had two other guys who used to always play with us through the years," Butler said, and paused for a breath. "They're gone now."
That's where 90-year-old Jerry Guadagno comes in.
The "new kid on the block" has only been playing with the guys for the last ten years.
"We look out for each other,"Guadagno said. "This is much more about the friendship and camaraderie than keeping score."
In fact the foursome doesn't keep score anymore.
There are no skins games, no running side bets.
Three of them walk the nine hole round, Hernandez gets a cart because he needs help with his oxygen container during the loop.
"This is really about the exercise," Greenberg said from the 11th fairway, they were playing the back nine this day.
"I really think I've been around this long because I've stayed active, I've kept moving and I've got this walk," he added.
But he's also got a great group of friends.
The foursome constantly check in on each other during non-playing days, though the conversation always gravitates toward their Tuesday/Thursday round.
Each of them are veterans of war.
Butler fought in Korea, the other three are heroes from World War II.
"Max fought in the Battle of the Bulge," Butler chimed in from across the 14th green.
"I really look forward to this," Greenberg said. "This is a wonderful part of my routine."
"I'm not just saying this, he really is fantastically strong," said Suckling. "He is in very good health it seems and he gets around well."
Greenberg greets every new person he meets with a firm handshake and a slap on the back, and you can hear his contagious laugh on the tee box from the driving range.
"He nearly pulls me tp the ground with his handshake every time he comes to the clubhouse," Suckling said, not laughing. "Seriously."
Sure, they play a little slower than the groups around them, but they're always quick to let the group behind them play though.
So, if you end up with a morning tee time at Jax Beach on a Tuesday or Thursday, and wind up behind this foursome of friends, don't get frustrated.
When they wave you through be sure to stop, say hello and shake hands.
Just make sure your feet are shoulder width apart, or you'll wind up on the ground.