Hilton Head Island golf starter retires at age 97

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comMay 20, 2014 


Sam Mulrain holds a flag from the oceanfront 10th hole at the Robert Trent Jones golf course in Palmetto Dunes, where he was a starter for 33 years. It was signed by staff members as a gift when Mulrain, 97, retired Jan. 31.

DAVID LAUDERDALE — Staff photo Buy Photo

Sam Mulrain of Hilton Head Island is going to take the rest of the day off.

At 97, he has finally retired from his retirement job at the Robert Trent Jones golf course. He was a starter every Thursday morning for 33 years at the course in Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort.

"I've retired any number of times," he said Tuesday at his apartment at The Seabrook.

He retired as a plant manager with the American Can Co. after 41 years, and as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army after 31 years of active and reserve duty.

He retired after 25 years as a volunteer at the Heritage golf tournament in Sea Pines, where he was vice chairman of marshals.

He retired after more than 20 years with Hilton Head Regional Habitat for Humanity, where he served on its original steering committee.

He retired from leadership positions at St. Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church, where he was on the building committees for the sanctuary and manse.

He retired after 25 years with the island's Senior Men's Golf Association.

And he has even retired from leadership with the local chapter of retired military officers.

Mulrain played baseball as a kid with Phil Rizzuto and was wounded in France while serving with Patton's army.

Now his wife, Mina, is gone, and so is his hearing.

But Mulrain is still sharp-witted, still cruises around in a 2011 Cadillac, and still works out four or five mornings a week at 6 a.m. He helps organize putting and shuffleboard contests.

As a boy in New City, N.Y., his father ran a shop, and he got to caddy at a private golf course built by Adolph Zukor, founder of Paramount Pictures.

"I learned from these rich people what it was you had to do to get where they were," he said. "It affected my whole life. How to dress properly. How to talk properly."

His goal to become successful was challenged when his father went bankrupt and the family had to move to his grandmother's house in Brooklyn.

He started at the American Can Co. right out of high school as an office boy. When he retired, he was a plant manager in Memphis, Tenn. He had already bought a lot on Willow Oak Road West, and was a member of the golf club.

Today, everywhere he looks he sees results of his old mantra: Stay busy.

His apartment is filled with the artwork of Mina, who painted watercolors, stitched seat cushions, and specialized in delicate, framed wildflowers. For 12 years, she was in charge of the monthly displays of interesting things islanders shared at the Hilton Head library.

"You can't live in the past," she said when she retired from that job to move on to another. "It's not what you were somewhere else, but what you are now."

The man people know as "Sammy" is now retired.

He's going to take the rest of the day off.

Or is he?

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