|Twelve-year-old Morgan Pressel, a seventh grader from Boca Raton, Fla., qualified for the U.S. Women's Open by shooting a 2-under-par 70 at an Open
qualifier two weekends ago. But hers was not necessarily the most amazing age-related performance by a Boca Raton golfer this month.
That's because three days later, 101-year-old Harold Stilson became the oldest golfer to ever shoot a hole-in-one, acing a 108-yard, par 3. That beat the previous oldest ace by two years.
And get this. It was Stilson's sixth hole-in-one. He also says he regularly shoots under his age. In other words, he's the Tiger Woods of the senior set, only we don't have to listen to Stilson's old man brag about how his kid is going to change the world.
"The secret of the hole-in-one is to hit the ball good and be lucky," Stilson said. "I almost hit one today. I missed it by three inches."
|Morgan Pressel will be the youngest competitor in the history of the U.S. Women's Open.|
How old is Stilson? He turned 61 before Jack Nicklaus turned pro. He's old enough to refer to Strom Thurmond as a whipper-snapper. But he is so remarkably vibrant and alive that just talking to him on the phone takes three years off your age.
He not only golfs three to four times a week, he drives himself to the course in his 1982 Lincoln Mercury. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if he pulls up to the intersection, guns the motor and challenges those octogenarian punks to a drag race.
"My ambition is to live to the year 2004," he said. "That's when I renew my drivers license."
Stilson has lived an extraordinary life, serving in World War I, working in a dance hall, playing in a Dixieland band and owning an automotive parts business. He was born two years before the Wright Brothers flew the first airplane, born decades before the first television broadcast, yet on Wednesday he'll fly across the country to appear on the Tonight Show. Then he'll fly to New York for another talk show.
"In my life, so many things have happened," Stilson said. "Wars all over the place. Various inventions. The computer. Every time you turn around there's something new in computers. What they do is fantastic. And one man says you haven't seen the end of it."
Stilson and his wife, Becky, were married 76 years and raised two children. Before Becky died three years ago, she and Stilson traveled across the
country together, playing golf wherever they went. Becky is gone, but Stilson continues to golf.
"Golf is much, much better than when I started," Stilson said. "The equipment is much better, plus, they're starting when they're so young these days. Seven and nine years old, they're hitting over 100 yards. It's the beginning of the youngster age, and some beautiful golfers are coming along."
Pressel is one of them. She started playing 4½ years ago and qualified for the U.S. Open four years before she can qualify for her first drivers license. How good is her career going for her right now? She even had former tennis star Aaron Krickstein toting her bags for her during the qualifier (Krickstein is her uncle).
At an age when most of us were wondering how Spider Man would escape Dr. Octopus, Pressel has a slot in the U.S. Open and a tennis star for a caddie. Imagine. A 12-year-old is going to a tournament that Nancy Lopez will not.
Still, Pressel doesn't seem unimpressed by her accomplishment. At least, not so far. "No," she said, "I'll have to play well in the Open and do well there."
In between preparing for the Open and appearing on the Today Show, Pressel also must attend to the usual chores of a seventh-grader. Like cleaning up
her room and studying for her algebra class. She had to end an interview quickly to go rehearse her lines in a classroom project, "Cinder-Stella."
Pressel and Stilson haven't met, but they've heard about each other and marvel at each's performance. Quite a thing, isn't it? A 12-year-old girl and a 101-year-old man from the same city each make golf history the same week.
"Anything can happen in golf," Pressel said. "Age does matter, but obviously not that much."
Tiger is capable of driving a golf ball more than 350 yards. But Pressel and Stilson hit that little dimpled ball so far last week that it spanned generations.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories
||Former major-leaguer Satchel Paige, who pitched in the bigs at age 59, once offered his "Six Keys to a Long Life."
Here's Harold Stilson's take on Paige's famous philosophy:
Satchel 1: Avoid fried foods which angry up the blood.
Stilson: What is wrong with Southern Fried Chicken?
Satchel 2: If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
Stilson: Take an alka selzer.
Satchel 3: Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
Stilson: The more you jump up and down, the more the juices flow.
Satchel 4: Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in public. The social ramble ain't restful.
Stilson: Kissing a lady in or out of public view is very soothing and satisfying.
Satchel 5: Avoid running at all times.
Stilson: If you run around in circles you're not going any place, therefore you should not.
Satchel 6: Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you.
Stilson: Especially the guy with a long beard and a scythe.