Mark Story: At age 97, golfer gets a hole-in-one

When you are 97 years old, it can take a tad longer to play 18 holes of golf than it did when you were a whippersnapper of 80.

Playing the par-3 Meadow brook Golf Course by himself on April 27, Dean Gorman figured he was showing proper golf etiquette when he let two guys "play through" on the 14th hole.

As it turns out, what he'd done was give himself witnesses to vouch for a rather dramatic golf occurrence.

The two strangers were leaving the 14th green for the 15th tee when Gorman took a 5-iron from his golf bag and let 'er rip.

"I could tell it was going to be a good shot when I hit it," Gorman said Thursday.

When you are 97 years old, it's hard to know for sure how well your shots turn out.

Says Gorman: "I can't see the ball anymore when it gets to the green."

He still hears plenty well, though, at least well enough to discern the shouts coming from the two men he'd let play ahead.

"The ball's in the hole! The ball's in the hole!"

One of the strangers, Eddie Overton, turned in the hole-in-one to the golf course staff.

When you are 97 years old, a hole-in-one must be a pretty good thrill.

"At my age, getting out of bed each day is a pretty good thrill," Gorman says.

Spend a little time with Dean Gorman, and you'll decide that his recent hole-in-one is not the most amazing thing about him.

This is: A man who was born when William Howard Taft was president (1911) is playing golf three days a week during Barack Obama's first year in the White House.

'I hate the game of golf'

Gorman has survived heart trouble and radiation treatments for a throat malady. Now, he has a pinched nerve in his back that makes it difficult to lift his right leg.

Yet he still walks the Meadowbrook course, and he pulls his bag behind him.

"Every now and then, we have to pick him up," says Shari Gatewood, a course manager at Meadowbrook. "He has slipped and fallen a time or two. But we watch out for him. It's kind of inspiring what he does."

You have to figure that someone who goes through all that to play golf at age 97 must really love the game.

"Frankly, I hate the game of golf. It drives me crazy," Gorman says. "When I come out here, I do it for the two, three hours of exercise."

So devoted to his exercise regimen is Gorman that, when his golf dates get rained out, he heads to Kroger or Wal-Mart. He gets a shopping cart and pushes it up and down the aisles as a substitute workout.

Gorman is proud of his trim, 150-pound frame. Besides exercise, he attributes it to what he calls his "65-carbs-a-day" diet.

That diet is heavy on peanut butter and a vegetable stew he cooks himself.

Still, diet and exercise appear to not be the only thing that explains Gorman's longevity. His older brother, Bernard, is about to celebrate his 105th birthday on June 3.

Started golfing at 67

A West Virginia native, Dean Gorman is a widower since January. He has five daughters, 11 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

That large family partially explains why Gorman, until he retired, had too much else going on to get into golf.

At 21, he says, he was already the manager of the A&P Grocery in Webster Springs, W.Va.

He was singing in a church choir there when he first laid eyes on Mildred James.

Was it love at first sight?

"It was darned close," Gorman says.

Problem was, "I was engaged to somebody else. And so was she," he said.

And that wasn't the only problem. Mildred's friends warned her to stay away from Dean. Maybe with reason.

"I don't say this in any kind of bragging way," he says, "but I was quite a ladies' man."

Maybe that explains how Dean got Mildred to break her engagement and marry him.

"One of her friends told her she was crazy, that if she married me, it wouldn't last six months," Dean says.

When Milly Gorman passed away Jan. 26, she and Dean had been married for 72 years.

"We made liars out of them all," Dean says.

Eventually, Gorman's business interests turned to real estate.

"I was a broker, would buy land, subdivide it, and then sell it," he said. "I did very, very well."

Gorman was 67, retired and splitting his time between Lexington and Naples, Fla., before he ever became serious about golf.

Four years after starting, he says, he shot his age (71) on a par-70 course.

Despite taking up golf at an advanced age, Gorman says, he has had "six or seven" holes-in-one over the years at Meadowbrook alone and several more in Florida.

"The Lord's work," Gorman says of a hole-in-one. "Anybody that gets a hole-in-one and tries to act like it was their skill is fooling themselves. It's the Good Lord letting you live a thrill."

When you are 97 years old and still living thrills, I'd say what you've really aced is life.