Fountain of Truth: One teacher's secrets to staying young forever

Wednesday April 27th, 2011
AGELESS: At 75, Top 100 Teacher Gary Wiren can drive the ball over 300 yards.
Angus Murray

If Gary Wiren, 75, isn't older than you, he's still probably longer than you. The director of instruction for Trump Golf properties, Wiren is Exhibit A for how regular exercise can result in low scores — and monster tee shots — at any age. To help spread that message last fall, Wiren held his spikes to the long-drive fire. On his 75th birthday, in front of a small gallery at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., Wiren tried to hit a 300-yard tee shot. He did it — three times, his longest blast measuring 310 yards. Here's what the former national staff director for the PGA of America has learned about powering up — and how you can do it, too.

Hitting a 300-yard drive is not unusual for young players. But it is unusual for a 75-year-old guy. [Laughs.] I'm not saying you don't deteriorate with age. I'm saying most people deteriorate far too rapidly. You can actually get stronger and more flexible into your nineties, if you work at it.

Strength without flexibility is pretty useless. I do that by building fitness into my everyday routine. As I lather up my face in the morning, I'll rise up on my toes to work my calves, or I'll tighten my glutes, my quads and my stomach. When I brush my teeth, I do 50 to 100 squats. When I pump gas, I put my leg up on a garbage can and stretch. What are you going to do — just stand there and watch the numbers go around?

The last three fingers in your left hand are your weakest fingers, yet they're supposed to control the golf club. To strengthen them, keep a hand-gripper around the house, next to the TV, wherever. Henry Cotton [the three-time British Open champion] practiced for two years hitting balls with his left arm alone.

I don't know the last time I ate bacon and eggs. My breakfast is granola with raisins. Then I add walnuts and almonds and blueberries and a little bit of yogurt on top. We also eat a lot of salad and fish and chicken. And we don't eat much beef anymore — and I'm from Nebraska! [Laughs.]

Spring Lake, the muni I grew up playing in Omaha, was ultra-minimalist. It had three par 3s and six par 4s, dirt tees, brown fairways, no practice green, no driving range. When I was a kid, it cost $1.75 for adults to play and 35 cents for kids. That's called access. Here's the kicker: All the cups at Spring Lake were four and a quarter inches in diameter — the same as at Winged Foot and St. Andrews. And the objective was the same: Get it from here to there in fewer shots than last time.

I made the cut in the 1994 U.S. Senior Open — carrying my own clubs! It was a statement to guys complaining about not being able to ride carts. Still, you had to have a caddie, so I had Fletcher Gaines, a famous caddie at Pinehurst. He's walking down the fairway with a towel around his neck and a bib with my name on it — and I'm carrying the bag. The spectators are like, "Fletcher, where do you get a job like that?"

If I could go back and give my 25-year-old-self some advice, I would try and become the best putter who ever lived. I once played nine holes with Gary Player. I was outhitting him by 40 yards, and I hit seven out of nine greens, and didn't make a birdie. He shot 33, making almost everything he looked at. So you can be a great putter and not a great golfer, but you can't be a great golfer and not a great putter.

There is one absolute in golf — one — and that is when you shoot a lower number, you have a much better time. That said, it's important to remember the first line of the first book I ever wrote, back in 1970: "Golf is a game and as such it is meant to be enjoyed." That's my job these days: to sell enjoyment.

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