Jacksonville Senior Center member Jim Turfler, who turned 97 on March 2, will have the honor of starting the center's third annual golf tournament at Hillendale Country Club on April 22. He will be the first to tee off and said he plans on sending his ball straight down the fairway.
"I don't hit it that hard anymore, but I still do hit it straight," said Turfler, who picked up his first 9-iron at age 68. "I only took one lesson. I don't play much now, but at one time, I was playing every day."
And what were his scores like? When he was 83, he shot his age.
Although he hasn't had much chance to practice his swing during this never-ending winter, Turfler is physically ready. He spends every single weekday morning at the senior center where he works out for an hour.
He varies his time on the machines, but makes sure he uses the rowing machine, the chest press and the leg curl. He also likes the Nu-Step, a recumbent cross-trainer.
"Jim was the impetus for us to do a golf tournament as a fundraiser for the center," said John Donohue, Jacksonville Senior Center president. "He is like the hero of the fitness center, and we have a group of guys here who play golf regularly, so it was a good fit for us to do a tournament. Jim is proof that the senior center plays an important part in allowing people to age in their homes."
Turfler currently lives with his daughter and son-in-law, Lynn and Carl Eisgruber, in Jacksonville. He drives himself to the senior center Monday through Friday, after first going to Fork for an 8 a.m. breakfast at the Sunshine Grille.
By 9 a.m., he's working off the bacon and eggs.
"He was one of the first ones to sign up for the exercise equipment on Oct. 1, 2010," said Barbara Franke, Jacksonville Senior Center supervisor.
Turfler, who was born in upstate New York, learned about daily physical activity early on. His family owned a farm with dairy cows and also ran a sawmill. He spent his time milking cows, chopping down trees and turning them into barn boards at the mill.
He joined the Army and was sent to Fort Holabird to learn how to assemble tanks. While there, he met Irene Riley, who would later become his wife.
Turfler was in the Army for almost five years and was stationed in the South Pacific. The World War II veteran got back to the U.S. on Dec. 16, 1944, and married Irene 10 days later.
He worked as service manager for Kelly Pontiac for 29 years, and he also worked at Chieftain Pontiac and Brooks Buick.
He was still working part-time at age 68 when a customer wanted to sell him a set of used golf clubs for $125.
"I had never golfed a day in my life, but when I talked him into selling me the clubs for $25, I thought I'd give it a try."
He was living in Loveton Farms in Sparks at the time and joined two senior golf groups. He played daily at Longview Golf Course in Timonium.
After his wife died in 2005, Turfler moved to Jacksonville and continued to golf.
And when the new Jacksonville Senior Center opened in 2010, he was first in line to sign up.
"The senior center opened up an avenue for him to exercise and socialize," said his daughter, Lynn Eisgruber. "He gets up and out of the house every day. I think that keeps him going."
Some recent issues with balance may keep Turfler from playing the entire upcoming golf tournament, but he still plans on driving that first ball down the fairway.
The senior center is still looking for golfers to participate in the April 22 tournament at Hillendale Country Club in Phoenix.
Fees are $125 per golfer. The cost includes continental breakfast, golf and carts, refreshments, awards luncheon and prizes.
Deadline is April 14.
Sponsorship of holes is also available.
"We have gotten really good support from business in the community that sponsor holes," said senior center President Donohue. "We are really more of a community center than strictly a senior center."
He said the tournament raised $3,000 the first year and $8,000 last year. The proceeds support programs at the senior center, including a volunteer luncheon given to seniors with 100 hours of volunteer service. Some 65 people attended last year's luncheon.
A portion of the proceeds is given to the Jacksonville Optimist Club's fundraiser to fight childhood cancer.
To register for the golf tournament, or to learn more about the senior center, call 410-887-8208.