October 18, 2021

Par for the Course

98-year-old ‘legend’ a regular at Cincy golf club

Katie Keyser/living and leisure editor

Elmer Fairbanks, left, of Greene and Stephen Malchak of Otisco Lake ride a cart Sept. 14 at Knickerbocker Country Club, during the Tuesday Morning Men’s Senior League.

Elmer Fairbanks, at 98, is the most senior member of the Tuesday Morning Men’s Senior League out of Knickerbocker Country Club.

And his fellow golfers say he’s still got it.

“I play once a week,” said Fairbanks, a retired truck driver who has driven all across the United States.

“The legend!” yelled Stephen Malchak, driving the golf cart with Fairbanks on Sept. 14, at the Cincinnatus club. “He’s going elk hunting out in Colorado.”

That’s true, Fairbanks said later. Fairbanks will drive west this fall.

“I usually drive straight through,” Fairbanks said. “I try to do that every year. I go with my son and several others. It varies from year to year.”

He also has hunted small game and deer since he was a child growing up in Whitney Point.

“I grew up in the Depression,” he said. “We hunted a lot of rabbit and birds and so forth, just to have something to eat.”

As for golf:

“I’ve been golfing at least 50 years,” said Fairbanks, of Greene.

“He plays good. Takes a full swing, back of his neck. Unbelievable,” said Charlie Willcox of Solon, a member of the Tuesday league.

The men were eating lunch Sept. 14 after their 18 holes at the Telephone Road golf course, where they play captain-and-crew style.

“Anyone that plays golf over 90 is an exception, due to the strength that you lose as you age,” said Bruce Martens, owner and general manager of Elm Tree Golf Course in Cortlandville. “You need to have some kind of physical ability, hand-eye coordination to hit the ball.”

Fairbanks has been a carpenter and barber, as well as a truck driver.

“The barber, the guy I worked for, he was a golfer. He gave me some clubs and a bag,” Fairbanks said. “That got me started playing golf. That was over in the Norwich area.”

He had a few lessons, but learned mostly by doing.

“Right now, I just can’t play the golf that I used to,” Fairbanks said. “At one time, I was playing almost every day. That was while I was still working for Norwich Pharmaceutical. They made all kinds of medicines and stuff. I was their barber then.”

“He’s a regular,” said Rich Barnhart of Homer. “Not a hit-or-miss guy. Even at his age he has a nice, smooth swing. Nothing but a gentleman.”

“He hits the ball 150 yards, the smoothest swing of any over 80. Don’t ask how he putts,” said Marv L’Amoreaux, a member of the league who sells real estate in Whitney Point.

Work Was A Pleasure
Fairbanks was never in a hurry to retire.

“Most of the things I did, I enjoyed doing,” he said. “I started working on a teacher’s farm at 13 years old and I have been working ever since.”

Fairbanks was one of the youngest in the family and he had a twin brother. He is the only one left.

“I drink every morning, a glass full of water, vinegar and honey,” Fairbanks said. “I do have arthritis. I have it all over me. I don’t feel it because of this. By doctor’s reports, it’s one of the healthiest things you can consume.”

Golf is Edifying
At the golf course: “We do a drawing system here. Every week, we get a different partner,” Malchak said. “He’s good company on the cart. He used to be a gunsmith, that’s what I found out today.”

“Elmer’s a wonderful character,” said Mike Meyers, co-owner of the Knickerbocker Country Club. “We love him. We look forward to these guys every Tuesday. They carry us all year long. All of them have lunch. Elmer always has the lunch special. He is a delight. One could only hope to be 98 and be as cognizant as he is and as healthy.”

Golf is a lifelong sport, said Tammy Timmerman, an owner of Willowbrook Golf Club in Cortlandville.

“It’s one of those sports you can play as long as you get around,” she said. “Golf is for anybody, young people, middle-aged, older people. I don’t like to use the word, ‘old.’ Age is a state of mind.”
Fairbanks has no idea how he maintained his health, but Willcox has a theory.

“I am the second oldest one,” said Willcox, 92, a member of the league, with two holes in one in his belt.

“I still trap, hunt, fish,” Willcox said. “I’ve always been outdoors. Hang around with young people. That’s the secret, if you hang around young people. If you want to get old, go down to the Cortland nursing home.”

Fairbanks makes a point to be active.

“I remember a farmer, there were two brothers, twins, I think they were. They retired at the same time. One of them just sat around all the time. The other one kept busy. The one that sat around died long before the other one did,” Fairbanks said.