Frank Holmes waited three years and one month for a phone call.
“Is it ever going to happen?” the 76-year-old Arlington resident often wondered.
Holmes finally got his call in April, announcing his acceptance into the Arlington Senior Men’s Golf Association, an exclusive group of close to 200 members with more than 80 on a wait list.
And it’s some wait — 2 1/2 years on average.
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“You hate that someone had to die or get too sick to play,” Holmes said, “but sometimes that’s what happens.”
The association started in 1988 with the help of the city of Arlington and 48 interested golfers. The objective was simple: Give Arlington seniors a structured means of enjoying golf while making new friends and enjoying time with old ones. Membership skyrocketed after bylaws were written.
“There’s a lot of guys out there who want to play and want to belong to something,” said Joe Schreiber, the president. “We offer that.”
Based on the numbers, seniors in Arlington have taken notice. The ASMGA boasts 144 active members, 43 inactive and another 87 on the wait list. Between 72 and 122 members play every Monday, and some get together for additional rounds Wednesdays and Fridays.
Charter member Les Gedeon, 88, had no idea how bright the future would be.
“I never dreamed it would get fantastic like this,” he said.
Given the limited sunlight hours and not enough carts at the Chester W. Ditto and Lake Arlington golf courses, the association capped the number of members and created the wait list. Prospective members can get a taste for the club by playing Wednesdays and Fridays, the group’s non-tournament days.
“Playing gave me a chance to get to know the guys,” said new member John Lee, a 64-year-old who recently moved to the Metroplex. “I was relatively new to Arlington so this group gave me a chance to get to know some people.”
Larry Bick, a member for eight years and organizer of the group’s Wednesday play day, said the golfers have bonded.
“All these guys like to play golf,” he said. “Once you get into the organization and find the camaraderie, we just have a lot of fun together and we feel like we belong.”
A lot of these guys are friends for life. Last year the average age was 76.4, and more than 40 members 80 or older play in the “Champions Tour,” including seven charter members.
Holmes sees himself joining that group in four years. “As long as I can, I’m going to be out here pounding that ball,” he said.
John Skidmore, 87, organizes the “Champions Tour” and has seen a sharp increase in players.
“When I took over, there were around seven guys,” he said. “It just started going every year. Now we’ve got two or three who come in already over 80.”
And the younger members shouldn’t dismiss the old guys, Skidmore noted — some of them can play, including an 86-year-old with a 14 handicap.
Charter member Jim Vanhoof, 90, says the talent level wasn’t always this high. “One big change is we have a lot better players now.”
Good-natured ribbing often follows a bad shot, but no one should be embarrassed about his game — or lack thereof.
“No one has to feel intimidated with being a bad golfer,” said Stu Reichert, a 75-year-old and member for 13 years. “The objective is golf.”
Playing with friends also makes scrambling around the course a little easier.
“As sorry as I play, they still play with me,” Skidmore said. “I guess they like me.”
So the Arlington Senior Men’s Golf Association has opened the door for seniors to make lifelong friends while getting exercise three days a week.
For those waiting to join, the call will come. Just ask Holmes.
“It did, finally, and I’m not disappointed,” he said. “I just wish it would have happened a little quicker.”