Straight down the middle: At 99, Naples golfer finds fairways and more in his love of golf

At some point in the vicinity of time when a massive ticker-tape parade was greeting Charles Lindbergh, a statement declining a re-election bid came from President Calvin Coolidge and golf’s majors were being won Bobby Jones, Tommy Armour and Walter Hagen, a teenage boy from Washington, D.C. decided to pick up a golf club.

As best he recalls, Hugo Hennig played his first round of golf in 1927.

More than eight decades have passed since that day and Hennig continues to enjoy the sport nine months shy of his 100th birthday.

“I’ve just been lucky and blessed,” Hennig said about his longevity in life and on the course.

Hennig, a great-grandfather of 14, plays golf three days a week in the Golden Gate Men’s Golf Association. Last week he arrived at Golden Gate Country Club at 7:05 a.m., teed off 15 minutes later and finished 18 holes with a 98, beating his age by one shot.

“It’s good when you shoot that,” Hennig said after his round, “especially when you’re not a spring chicken.”

Back when he was a “spring chicken,” the foundation to Hennig’s affection for golf was formed. As a teenager, he spent his summers camping in the Pennsylvania mountains while caddying at a golf course. Six days a week he’d carry clubs, but on Sunday afternoons, caddies were allowed to play. Hennig got hooked.

These days hooks and slices aren’t part of his game.

“I finally have learned how to hit the ball down the middle all the time,” he said.

Hennig, who was born in Mobile, Ala., and moved north when he was a youngster, said his lowest handicap was about 12 to 14. No longer that low, it’s still better than others. Proof came with last week’s 98.

“Guys 20 years younger than him would like to shoot that,” said 87-year-old Reggie Mosher, one of Hennig’s golfing buddies in the association.

For Hennig, one thing that triumphs a good score is the camaraderie that he enjoys within the league.

“It’s a great bunch of players,” he said.

There’s also the purity of the game.

“It’s a good, clean sport. You learn how to be patient,” he said. “I try my best to be fair and to play the game as the way it was supposed to be played.”

Hennig will turn 100 on Dec. 5. He already knows how he wants to celebrate.

“I hope to play golf that day,” he said.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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