Bird Watching

Hinton tells his “stories” of the course | Sports

My name is Gail Hinton. I am 86 years old and have been playing golf for over 50 years. I live in

Indiana, where you could drive anywhere in less than an hour to reach no less than 50 golf courses.

I started golf in 1966. I had been playing baseball in all the mining towns for about 16 years.

athletically – was smooth.

I started at the Pleasant Valley Golf Course, a farm that had been turned into a new course about 6 miles from my house.

By 1967 I had acquired about 75 fabulous new friends – about half,

metallurgists like me. You could work from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and be on the golf course by 3:30 p.m.; or you can play golf in the morning and go to work from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift had its own possibilities.

private golf course where me and a couple

hundreds of the most loyal, funniest and most special people have practiced our various golf courses

talent for 25 years. It was later sold and quickly became a “nobody plays it anymore” golf course.

Golf, like hunting, fishing or bird watching, lends itself to a myriad

“you-had-to-be-there” moments, especially if you’ve been involved in that particular activity for a long time.

I intended to pass on to my grandsons some of the funny,

enlightening, and yes, even poignant moments I had on the golf course. As far as I know, I’ve done everything you can do on a golf course, except shoot my age. Many of my friends did. I have a theory about it: I was the quintessential skins player. I shot for everything. So later in the years I couldn’t play for a bogey.

We had around 40 player skins. It took us a while to figure out who you could play skins with, so the first two years we played quarter and half skins. I don’t know if the Stableford rating system has been mentioned before, but someone probably knew about it. Probably the pro/owner of the PGA.

We also played what we call pin-points, or closest to the pin on the par-3s and in 2, on the par-5s. The year is 1970. About 30 skins players signed up for the half dollar skins. Before we start, the four guys behind say they want in our game. One of them refused to play the skins, so now we have seven, with two winners.

We had just gotten home from work so we started at #13. #18 is 510 yards, par 5, all downhill, dog leg left, kinda sucks – it’s wonderful. I don’t remember two of the discs very well, but I know my disc exactly, and my buddy’s disc was 10 feet from mine. (This man owned a few dry-cleaning shops in the area, and he was very good.)

The conversation between two good friends went like this: Paul said, “What are you going to hit?” I said to him, “The other day I was about here, I hit a 4 and it went over the back. This pin is right in front. I think I’ll try to hit short and bounce back. I’ll hit a 5.”

So I knocked. Paul said, “That looks good.”

The ball has disappeared. I said, “It still went over.”

Paul said, “Man, this ground is hard. I can’t hit a 6 that far. I’ll go with a 5. He hit, light pull, putt left side of the green. Paul said, “I’ll take it.”

As we approached the green, we saw a familiar face running towards us. “Hey, Gael! Hey, Gael!” “Your ball went in the hole!” “That was your second shot?” He was right. I went to get the ball back. Danny asked, “What do they call it? A double eagle? I said, “I think so!”

After the congratulations and the fun, we started calculating the skins payout. “Well, we know Gail had eight skins. Did you have any others? I said no.” Someone said, “Gail had nine skins. He had precision. “Hey, that’s right.” The one guy who wasn’t playing with the skins was happy, but the other six guys owed me nine skins each: 54 skins equals $27.

I’ve made more money in team scrambles, but that’s the most I’ve ever made on a hole. Later, the pro went out with Paul and me to get the yardage: 320-yard practice, 190-yard 5-iron.

As I sit here at my desk, I can look at a certificate from Golf Digest.

Next week: let’s talk aces