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Billy Reed: Coming off a long lay-off, the happy golfer is back — for big laughs and great memories shared

Last week the most exciting sports story in my Coronavirus-shrunken world was that played nine holes of golf, the first time in more than two years that I had swung at a Titleist. I use the term “played” advisedly because I’m sure that good players would recognize my hacking as being anywhere close to the same game they play.

Yet the record will show that my next-door neighbor Ed Zellers and I were on the course at the Glen Oaks Country Club from 1:50 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. last Thursday, an afternoon when the temperature crept past 80 for maybe the final time the year. It was my 220th day of self-imposed quarantine due to the deadly pandemic that has claimed more than 220,000 American lives.

Even though I stopped playing due to various health problems, I was determined that I would play again someday. It’s mainly because of my one-sided love affair with golf. I love the game far more than the game loves me. I think that at my “peak,” if you want to call it that, I had a 22 handicap.

But to me the scores always have been secondary to the fun. I’ll bet I’ve had a lot more laughs on golf courses than many scratch players. Most of my rounds, of course, have been played at courses in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. But I’ve also played in New York, South Carolina, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, and California.

Billy Reed is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and the Transylvania University Hall of Fame. He has been named Kentucky Sports Writer of the Year eight times and has won the Eclipse Award three times. Reed has written about a multitude of sports events for over four decades and is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable writers on the Kentucky Derby. His book “Last of a BReed” is available on Amazon.

During my “retirement,” I nevertheless kept checking out the websites of various clubs to see if any had senior memberships that I could afford and justify joining. Alas, all I discovered was that most clubs are rather calloused in their treatment of senior players. I guess the young studs, who all think they’re the second coming of Tiger, don’t want geezers cluttering up their fairways.

But one day recently I saw that Glen Oaks was offering a membership that seemed designed for older golfers. The dues are only $59 a month. Naturally, there are some restrictions about tee times. But there also were enough perks, such as preferred tee times and cheap green fees, to grab my attention.

As fate would have it, Glen Oaks is operated by Jamie Miller and his wife. Jamie is the son of J. Bruce Miller, a longtime friend who spent several terms as the Jefferson County Attorney before focusing a lot of his attention on leading the movement to bring an NBA franchise to Louisville.

My interest increased, I visited the clubhouse, which has a nice pro shop and a spacious room for casual dining. The course itself is carved out of hilly terrain which developers had turned into a subdivision of upscale homes.

So I did it. I joined. And I made the tee time for Ed and me.

The course has a lot of hills and water. Some holes are tight, requiring precision, and others more open. Sometimes just getting from the cart to the tee and back was a chore. Some of the holes require shots that have no room for error. You either make the shot or your ball either disappears into a thick or is consigned to sleeping with the fishes.

It wore me out. I have a respiratory problem that I’ve been treating for several years. It has hindered my physical activity and sapped a lot of my strength. I am just not used to walking that much, especially when hills are involved.

Yet it was glorious just to be back on a golf course. We really didn’t care about our scores as much as just enjoying the exquisite pleasure of striking a golf ball. And, typical of golf, I hit just enough good shots to make me want to punish myself again. I also discovered that my putting touch, one of the better parts of my game, was still intact.

As we walked off the ninth tee, Ed looked into the trees and saw a lonely buzzard sitting on a limb. He yelled at the buzzard, “Not today, buddy.” I guess the buzzard saw our staggering around and figured he might get a feast.

Unfortunately, winter is upon us. I usually don’t like to play if the temperature dips below 65 degrees. But at least I have something to which I can look forward, and a new place to go for lunch or a drink. I used to love the 19th hole as much as the round itself. Being around a clubhouse makes me remember old friends, good times, and more laughs than any human deserves.

I am back and available for endorsement offers.

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