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At 102 years old, Burlington golfer can shoot his age

By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

Elmo Hatley of Burlington can shoot his age in golf and he insists on keeping score for his rounds.

He’s 102 years old.

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Hartley and his sons, Frank and Thomas, play a nine-hole round once or twice a week when weather permits.

“People come up to me like I’m a freak or something,” Hatley said.

He frequently plays at The Valley Golf Course in Burlington or at Brookwood Golf Course in Whitsett. The group also has gone to Mebane’s Quaker Creek Golf Course.

Hatley has been golfing for more than 70 years.

“You don’t see too many guys 102 playing golf,” said Thomas Hatley, the youngest son at age 66. “He was a scratch golfer (decades ago).”

Elmo Hatley said he enjoys time on the course.

“It’s good exercise for me,” he said. “With younger people around, it makes you feel like you still belong.”

Fred Ireland, assistant manager at The Valley, said Hatley’s presence makes for a good conversation topic.

“Everybody just talks about it,” Ireland said. “The golfers out here are in awe when they see him.”

Ireland remembers the first times he met Hatley.

“He said, ‘I’m a senior and playing with my two boys, and they’re both seniors,’” Ireland recalled.

[Story continues below photo.]

Elmo Hatley, right, poses for a photo with sons Thomas, left, and Frank, center, at The Valley Golf Course.

At The Valley, the Hatleys are allowed to drive the golf cart closer to the green than is normally permitted. And the elder golfer in the group doesn’t hit out of traps, but he counts every stroke.

Elmo Hatley could achieve a unique mark by combining a pair of nine-hole rounds – shooting his age without breaking 100.

Thomas Hatley said his father can hit shots about 150 yards. He plays from super senior tees at The Valley and from other shorter set-ups.

He’s particularly proud of a 43 he shot on a modified set-up several weeks ago.

“We keep score,” he said. “We’re as competitive as we can get.”

Hatley, who turns 103 on June 28, does this despite vision limitations because of macular degeneration. So he hasn’t driven an automobile for more than a decade, but still drives on the golf course.

He’ll need help finding his ball after hitting. His recent 50 at Brookwood Golf Course was a source of pride.

“That’s real good for a man who can’t see good,” he said. “I’m hitting in the dark.”

His background includes time in World War II. He played trumpet in the Air Force band, spending about 2½ years in Italy.

He later owned a music store, Hatley Music, in Burlington. He specialized as a piano tuner.

Other than golf, Hatley goes about three times a week to the Alamance County Community YMCA to walk and lift weights. He’ll also visit the American Legion.

He lives on Glenwood Avenue in Burlington. “A wedge from Church Street for some people,” he said. “I’d need a driver.”

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