Golf

Palmetto Dunes golfer doing better than his age

mmccombs@islandpacket.comMarch 14, 2012 

One thing you can say about Leo Luken: he hasn't let his age slow him down.

Luken, a member of the Palmetto Dunes Golf Club, shot a 91 on Saturday, March 3, on the George Fazio Course. It marked the 900th time that Luken, 93 years old, has shot his age or better.

"I made about a 30-foot putt on No. 18 to get 91," Luken said. "But even if I'd missed it, I'd have still made 92."

The next time out, he shot 89 to bring his total to 901.

Luken first shot his age more than two decades ago.

"I was 71 years old in McCormick, Tenn., and I shot 71 that day and I bet I made every 10-foot putt I had, like I was a genius, like I knew what I was doing," Luken said. "The first 100 times took three or four years."

The most memorable time he shot his age came in 2006 when Luken won The Villages Shoot Your Age Championship at the Arnold Palmer Legends Country Club in The Villages, Fla. Luken, then 87, beat a field of 60 amateurs and PGA Tour legends Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.

Luken and Palmer finished 1-2, with Luken shooting a 6-under 81 (your age is par) and the 76-year-old legend shooting a 3-under 73.

Despite his age, Luken still plays three days a week on the Palmetto Dunes courses, alternating one week at the Fazio course, the next at the Robert Trent Jones course.

"(My game's) not as good as it used to be when I was younger," Luken said. "I had a stretch of 20-22 years where my handicap was nine, 10 or 11. But I just can't hit it as far anymore."

While he may not be able to hit the ball as far, Luken refuses to make any concessions. He still plays from the white tees and has no plans to move up.

"In senior tournaments, where they move the tees up," Luken said, "I never counted those in my streak."

As Luken has amassed his 901-game total, there have been two constants: the support of his wife, Mickey, and his putter.

Luken and his wife celebrated their 69th anniversary Feb. 27.

"I told her I couldn't find a card with 69 years on it."

And Luken has been using the same putter for almost as long as he's been married.

"I bought the putter from Bill Kratzert at the Fort Wayne Country Club in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for $10 in 1945," Luken said. "That's 67 years. And I don't know how long he had it either."

So much for taking advantage of modern golf technology.

"One of my woods is 50 years old, too."

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