PAWTUCKET â€“ â€śThere are at least 10 great things about golf,â€ť Frank Rampone was saying last Thursday while sitting in the shade next to the first tee at Pawtucket Country Club, â€śand your score is about 10th on the list. Playing and socializing with your friends is right there at the top. And then there is the beauty of the golf course, being able to take a walk outdoors on a beautiful day.â€ť
Rampone, who is 82 years young, recently shot a round of 73 at Pawtucket. A modest man like so many members of his generation, Rampone is a little short on details.
â€śI donâ€™t remember much about that round,â€ť he said. â€śYou could say I putted well.â€ť
Rampone is quick to mention that he is not the only senior golfer who plays well at Pawtucket.
â€śWe have a number of older golfers who can shoot their age or better,â€ť he said. â€śJim Tanner is 73 and can shoot his age or lower. My friend Dan Motta is 75 and plays to a 6-handicap. He shoots his age or lower very frequently. Connie Lyons (approximately 88) shoots below his age all the time. I think the key, for me, is exercising and stretching to keep my flexibility. Exercise is about 8 on a scale of 10 in terms of importance. Stretching is a 10. You canâ€™t lose flexibility because then your swing is going to get shorter.â€ť
Rampone has been a member at PCC since 1963. At this best, he played to a 3-handicap.
â€śThat was back in the 1970s,â€ť the Lincoln resident recalled. â€śI remember I even beat Norm Lutz once in the club tournament. We played 20 times and Norm beat me 19 times.â€ť Rampone laughs at the memory of playing against Lutz, a fierce competitor and scratch golfer who won 22 Pawtucket club championship tournaments, and also prevailed at the R.I. Amateur and R.I. Open during a competitive career that covered more than four decades.
â€śNorm is around 80 now. He has a home in West Palm Beach, Florida,â€ť Rampone said. â€śHe comes up north for a couple of months in the summer, visits with his daughter in Vermont, and then he stops by the club for one or two rounds and beats everyone!â€ť
Rampone admits to playing three or four times a week in Pawtucketâ€™s afternoon get-together of members that is known as â€śThe A Train.â€ť He plays to a 9-handicap these days, relying on his short game to compensate for some of the distance off the tee that he has lost over the years.
â€śI can still reach holes under 400 yards in two shots,â€ť Rampone said, â€śbut I live on my short game.â€ť
Pawtucket Country Club pro Mike Gelinas has seen enough of Rampone and other seniors to appreciate what makes them successful in their 70s and 80s.
â€śThe main thing is they work hard on the strength and flexibility,â€ť he said. â€śI know Frank stretches every day. Mr. Lyons does, too. In golf, keeping your strength and flexibility is a big key to playing well as you grow older. Frank and Connie both have very good golf swings. Proper technique is also a key to maintaining their games. Frankie can still move it off the tee.
â€śTheir short games are very important, too,â€ť Gelinas said. â€śFrank is a great chipper and putter.â€ť
In the end, though, golf is just a way to stay healthy and active, according to Rampone.
â€śMy wife, Dorothy, and I have two sons and six grandchildrenâ€ť he said. â€śGolf has been a big part of our lives. I played a lot of golf with my sons over the years. What I really enjoy doing now is going to my grandchildrenâ€™s baseball games.â€ť
Golf is an important part of Ramponeâ€™s life but it stands a distant second to one thing.
â€śFamily,â€ť the proud grandfather said.
The temperature on this Thursday afternoon was heading into the mid-90s, prompting Rampone to add one piece of advice to his fellow seniors.
â€śI donâ€™t play golf when it gets hot like this,â€ť he said, smiling as he looked out at the green fairways. Already you could see the heat rising from the golf course.
â€śYouâ€™ve got to take care of yourself,â€ť Frank Rampone said as he got up and headed into the clubhouse to say hello to some of his buddies.