Dr. Wally Sennott is taking a break from playing golf this summer.
After all, at 104, the retired radiologist has earned the right to put the clubs on ice for a couple months until cooler temperatures arrive in the fall.
The Towson resident and his 102-year-old wife, Adelaide, are pretty much restricted to their apartment in the Pickersgill Retirement Community during warmer months, although the couple still can roam the facility's long corridors for exercise if need be.
Yet it wasn't too long ago that Dr. Sennott and his son, James, took a few swings at the Pine Ridge Golf Course driving range in preparation, perhaps, for him reaching golf's elusive goal of shooting less than his age.
Only once did he ever card as low as a 99, his crowning achievement on the links.
Then there was the time he came close to a hole-in-one at Mount Pleasant Golf Course.
"That was a long time ago," Dr. Sennott said, shaking his head while recalling the near-miss that stopped a mere foot from the cup.
When he does play, he's pretty good, according to Pine Ridge Senior Golf Club president Jim Ridenour.
"He doesn't hit it very far, but he hits it straight," said Ridenour, whose executive committee awarded Dr. Sennott and Rodgers Forge resident Charles Zorbach with honorary memberships at a ceremony June 24. "His short game, including putting, is very good. He's just wonderful to play with, very encouraging. He's an inspiration to all of us guys who are over 80."
A three-sport athlete in high school in Vermont, Dr. Sennott played some golf at Colgate University but was unable to continue playing football in college, considering the stature of the Red Raiders on the gridiron in those days.
"They had 45 captains of their high school teams (on the Colgate roster)," he said. "They didn't ask me to come out for the team. They were very good in those days."
So good, in fact, the 1932 team was "undefeated, unscored on and uninvited," in a now legendary line attributed to coach Andy Kerr.
Colgate went 9-0 that season, but was snubbed by the Rose Bowl, leading to the coach's famous quote.
While the football team rolled over opponents, Dr. Sennott was just as successful in the classroom — and courting Adelaide.
When asked if he was summa cum laude or magna cum laude at the usptate New York school, he acknowledged with a laugh that he "was one of those."
By the time he was ready to graduate, the Great Depression had gripped the nation and could have scuttled his collegiate studies.
"A lot of the private school guys from wealthy families had to drop out of school," he said. "I had grants and scholarships, and I worked in (the cafeteria) kitchen. It didn't affect me that much."
After meeting Adelaide — her auburn hair and piano playing caught his attention — when he was toiling in another kitchen at a summer camp where she was a counselor,
Adelaide kept the lines of communications going after he went back to continue his studies at Colgate.
"I wrote him a letter," she said with a shy smile.
"And I think there was a little perfume in it," he said with a chuckle.
As the relationship grew, Dr. Sennott declined a full scholarship to Duke Medical School because "I didn't want to leave my girl."
The couple was married in her native Connecticut in 1938.
Dr. Sennott also turned down Yale and Johns Hopkins medical schools to attend Harvard. After finishing his residency in radiology, the couple lived in New York, Cleveland and New Orleans before finally settling in Baltimore in 1958 with their two sons, one of whom, Roger, was a Baltimore County golf champ at Towson High.
Radiology, Dr. Sennott said, became his life's work after learning about the specialty on his intern rotation.
He still fondly remembers the radiologist who mentored him.
"He knew so much about everything in the body," Dr. Sennott said. "We just respected him so much. I said, 'That's what I want to do.' I had a chance to be a surgeon, but I thought I was too nervous too operate on people."
At varying times, Dr. Sennott was on the staff of the Johns Hopkins and Baltimore City General hospitals and spent most of his career with the U.S. Public Health Service.
"We did some good stuff," he said.
Longevity, he said, runs in both families.
They both come from parents who lived into their 90s, including Adelaide's mother (92) and his father (a week shy of 100).
They don't adhere to a special diet, he said, insisting that he "eats anything that comes along, I still have a great appetite."
As much as he'd like to get back to the driving range soon, Dr. Sennott said he doesn't want to be gone too long from Pickersgill.
"I don't like to leave Addie here alone," he said.
After 75 years of marriage, his wife comes still come first and foremost in his life.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun