At 88, Pete Risser of Wooster, Ohio, takes eight pills a day, but that’s one of his few concessions to age. He still mows his own lawn, keeps a 15.6 handicap, and beat his age 38 times last year alone.
At 10, Kayla Parsons has her own agent and website, she’s made two holes-in-one, and she is mentioned in the current issue of Sports Illustrated.
Risser and Parsons will be the oldest and youngest players, respectively, at this week’s Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship in Myrtle Beach, S.C. “At 10 I didn’t even know what a golf club was,” says Risser, who shot his age for the first time at 73. “I had a paper route and was supporting myself. It was during the Depression, of course, and my dad had trouble finding jobs.”
Risser spent three years in the Navy during World War II, during which time he was stationed mostly in Vero Beach, Fla. He wouldn’t take up golf until getting out of college, but he’s made up for lost time. He plays five or six times a week at Wooster Country Club; he and about 10 other players each pony up $5, of which $3 goes into the pot for the low team score, and $2 goes toward the skins.
This will mark his third crack at the Golf.com World Am. He missed last year’s tournament when his wife, Norma, was diagnosed with lymphoma.
“She’s feeling pretty good after a year,” Risser says.
He left Norma in the care of a family member and made the 11-hour drive to Myrtle Beach with a friend Saturday. Risser and his pal, 72-year-old Devonne Sigler, are in the same flight, so they’ll commute together to the golf course each morning. The goal for this week is to have fun, as always, but Risser also wants to beat his age. And one more thing: He has nine career aces, and he wants more.
“I’m hoping to get that 10th one,” he says.
Parsons required no road trip; she lives in Myrtle Beach with her parents, Ed and Kathy. Still, she will be riding shotgun this week, as she’s too young to drive a golf cart. She just started the fifth grade, and will miss school for the tournament.
“We got a principal-excused absence,” says Ed.
Kayla was introduced to the game through miniature golf, but one day decided she wanted to try the real thing. Her parents accommodated her, even though neither one was an avid golfer. Kathy has since taken up the sport; Ed admits he's hopeless. This is surprising, given Kayla’s mini-LPGA swing, which she’s been grooving with her new coach, three-time Re/Max World Long Drive finalist Tom Garber.
She can easily shoot 48 for nine holes, as she did while playing with a 10th and an 11th grader during a Carolina Forest High girls’ golf team practice. She’s played junior tournaments, but this will be her first crack at the Golf.com World Am, which features more than 3,000 players spread across some 60 area courses, and is in its 28th year. Kayla’s used to playing with adults, and figures it won’t be terrible to be fawned over because of her age this week.
“That’s what I’m hoping for,” she says with a laugh.