SENIOR OLYMPICS Poland senior citizen walks, and his golf game talks
David Jeffrey Walton is looking for more golf courses to conquer -- and walk.
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
POLAND -- He is an athlete and a recent national tournament runner-up in his sport.
He plays three times a week, virtually year-round.
And he is looking forward optimistically to another national tournament in 2003.
His name: David Jeffrey Walton of Poland.
His age: 93.
"I like to walk," said Walton, who placed second in the 90-95 age group at the National Senior Olympics that ended last Friday at the Santa Maria Golf Course in Baton Rouge, La.
"They shortened the tournament from 36 to 27 holes because of the heat and humidity," he said. "They made us ride the cart, and also to tee off first at 7 in the morning."
Only complaint: That was Walton's only complaint -- he was prevented from walking the course for the three-day tournament. He played nine holes each day and carded 55-53-49 -- 157 to finish three strokes off the pace.
Thomas Campbell of New Jersey won the event with 50-51-53 -- 154. William Owen of Michigan was third. There were four players in Walton's age group.
It was Walton's second silver medal in golf at the National Senior Olympics, having placed second in the 1999 meet in Orlando. He placed sixth in 1995 in San Antonio, Texas.
He has played in the tournament four times, qualifying each time by winning a regional and state tournament championship.
Eyes 2003 meet: Now Walton, a widower for 14 years -- his wife, Virginia, died after their 52nd wedding anniversary -- is looking forward to 2003.
"If my health holds out, I'm going to try to go to the 2003 National Senior Olympics in Hampton Roads, Va." he said. The tournament is held every two years.
Walton has been golfing about 45 years. The sport is an integral part of his life.
"Golf is my main hobby because I can walk and get out in the fresh air and sunshine," said Walton, who retired in 1972 as sales and service manager for United Airlines at the Youngstown Airport.
He has lived in Poland for about 39 years, since being transferred to Youngstown Airport.
Shuffled around: "United moved me around so many times -- from Chicago to Salt Lake to Seattle to Reno to Oakland [then to] to Chicago to Omaha [and] back to Chicago then to Cleveland then to Youngstown," he recounted.
The thrill of hitting a long drive or making a long putt is the best part, he said. He hits the links three times a week in two leagues, playing nine holes each time. He rarely rides carts.
"I usually walk," he said. "I play locally at Valley [golf course in Columbiana] on a Monday and I walk [and I play] Mill Creek on Wednesday and Friday in the senior men's league."
To California: When the snow falls, "I go to California in the winter and I golf out there, pretty close to the same number of days as I golf here."
He's pretty good -- averaging about 50 for nine holes. His best score was a 76 for 18 holes around 1968.
One of Walton's two career highlights happened last Friday on the tournament's final day.
"Yesterday on the eighth hole, I chipped in for a birdie for a par 3 on the eighth hole," Walton said.
His other highlight came in Scotland at St. Andrews.
"I played the St. Andrews course twice and I shot a 99 on the old course, and I had three straight pars, which is pretty good for me, and they gave me a copper plaque," Walton recalled.
Has fans, too: But another milestone took place during last week's tournament -- some of his family members came to cheer him on in the tournament.
Walton and his wife had three children: Connie Linneman of Lafayette, Calif.; Timothy of Atlanta, Ga.; and Michael, who is deceased.
"Timothy was there [Friday] as a matter of fact, with my two grandchildren, David Jeffrey II, named totally after me, and Jennifer, to view all this," said Walton.
But his dedicated fans didn't follow him in a cart.
"They [tournament officials] made them walk, so they followed me all the way from beginning to end."