For veteran golfers, handing clubs to a new generation is a joy

After over 60 years of golfing together, friends Dick Schiefelbusch, 94, left of center, and Al Gallop, 97, who have known each other since World War II, have passed their clubs on to beginners Kanak Masten, 11, left, and Salvador Good, 10, respectively, with hopes that the two can have fun with the game but also build friendships in the process. The four are pictured on Thursday, July 11, 2013 at Presbyterian Manor, 1429 Kasold Drive, where the two gentlemen live. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

Salvador Good holds a selection of Gallop's clubs. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

For all they’ve seen during the past 10 decades–be it family milestones, the inside of a German prison camp, professional triumphs or countless rounds of golf–Lawrence residents Al Gallup and Dick Schiefelbusch rank bringing joy to the eyes of two Lawrence youths up near the top.

After playing golf together regularly at courses in Lawrence and throughout Kansas since 1948, Gallup, 97, and Schiefelbusch, 94, recently stepped away from the game and began searching for new owners for their well-used clubs.

“We kept going pretty well,” said Schiefelbusch, cocking his head for emphasis. “But we didn’t get anywhere near all of the magic out of them,”

It didn’t take long to find suitable owners for their Hogan irons, old-style driving clubs known as woods — which, in this case, actually are made of wood — and nondescript solid green and solid blue golf bags. Gallup’s former neighbors Salvador Good, 10, and Kanak Masten, 11, were among the first names that came to mind.

“I needed somebody to give the clubs a good home and I knew Salvador would use them and take care of them,” Gallup recalled recently from his home at Presbyterian Manor. “So I decided to give them to him. And then Dick asked me, ‘Do you know any other 11-year-olds?’ And I said, ‘As a matter of fact, I do.’ That’s how he gave his clubs to Kanak.”

The symmetry of helping two young boys begin their love affair with golf at the same age that Gallup did in the 1920s adds just the right touch of nostalgia to the end of two golf careers and the beginning of two new ones.

“I thought it was really nice of them to pass their clubs down to us so we could play more,” said Salvador, who also dabbles in soccer, basketball, baseball and tennis but recently has felt a strong pull toward the links. “I’ve already used them a little bit out at Eagle Bend. They work pretty good.”

Added Kanak, who was born in India and bears a name that means “gold” in Sanskrit: “I hadn’t even held a golf club more than once or twice when I got these clubs. I was excited. It just looks very fun.”

Fun is certainly one of the words Gallup and Schiefelbusch would use to describe their favorite pastime. And while their playing days are now behind them, the twinkle in the two men’s eyes when talking about their most memorable rounds, near holes-in-ones and favorite courses illustrates that while their clubs have left them, their love of the game never will.

The final round

It’s been nearly two years since Gallup and Schiefelbusch played their last round together at the Orchards off of 15th Street. They played nine holes and Dick shot a 42 and Al a 49. There was nothing particularly bad about that final round, but it was clear to both men that their time had come.

“You have to be a realist,” Schiefelbusch said. “There is a pace to life that catches up with all of us, but as long as you can keep a smile on your face and enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll be all right.”

These days those smiles come from a variety of different places. Schiefelbusch, who enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a professor at Kansas University, has written several books and manuscripts chronicling stories from World War II, many of them from his own experiences.

Gallup, a 47-year veteran of the insurance business who still has a mind like a steel trap, simply enjoys being able to spend more time with friends and family, most notably his wife of 70 years, Winnie, and his good pal Schiefelbusch, who now lives across the hall.

The two have tons of interests and activities that keep them busy most days. But every so often they find themselves sitting in front of a tall glass of lemonade and a plate of cookies reminiscing about days gone by and telling tales of their golf glory. It’s a sight to behold and an experience that makes hours feel like minutes. And it is so full of jaw-dropping anecdotes — about golf and life — that it seems a shame that one of Schiefelbusch’s books is not about the two of them.

War stories

On Dec. 10, 1941, three days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Gallup and Schiefelbusch received telegrams from Washington D.C. telling them to report to military service in Leavenworth. It was there that this fast friendship began, but not until seven years later that the two had time to work golf into their daily lives.

Gallup, a Parsons native who first took up golf as a way to help pay for college while working at a country club in Des Moines, Iowa, and Schiefelbusch, from Osawatomie, admitted they had no idea what awaited them after being drafted into World War II, but felt that, given the choice, they would prefer to be airborne.

“We didn’t know anything about war,” Gallup said. “But we figured it would be better to fly through it than carry a rifle and walk through it.”

So Gallup served his country as a flight captain and Schiefelbusch as a navigator. The plan worked well until one day when Schiefelbusch’s plane was shot down from 29,000 feet in the air and came down in German territory. He was held in the prison camp chronicled in the 1963 film “The Great Escape,” starring Steve McQueen and James Garner.

Although he speaks little about those two years, Schiefelbusch shared one beautiful memory.

“Between interrogations, I could stand on the bed and peek out of a window,” he began. “Every day, off in the distance, I saw five mothers and about a dozen children working in the fields. It brought me great peace.”

Years later, it was visions in other fields, which included lush fairways, picturesque greens and dimpled white balls flying through the air, that brought Schiefelbusch and Gallup joy.

Friendly rivalry

During the height of their time as amateur golfers, Gallup and Schiefelbusch won their share of tournaments and bested more than a few talented opponents.

Gallup fired his best score, a five-over-par 77, at 88 years old, and Schiefelbusch broke par three times and boasts a 69 as his best round.

“He was the better player by the time we decided to quit,” Gallup conceded. “But I always say I started letting him win.”

Schiefelbusch did not argue with his friend — but he did protest.

“He was consistently 2-3 strokes better,” he said of Gallup. “But, boy, we were a pair. He had an unfair advantage over me, though, because he played golf for 10 years with a guy who had three sons who were all state champions.”

A few years ago, during a tournament put on by the Kiwanis Club, the duo shocked everyone by finishing near the top. But there was a catch. Because no one there knew quite how good the old guys were, they were allowed to play from the junior tees. And they took full advantage. Gallup shot 11 strokes below his age and Schiefelbusch one stroke above his.

“These guys make getting old look very graceful and fun,” Kanak’s father, Randy, said.

A new generation

Although Gallup and Schiefelbusch have taken off their gloves for the final time, golf still has a special place in both of their hearts.

“I still play at night,” Gallup said before pointing to his head and demonstrating what he meant. “‘OK, I’m on the second hole at Alvamar and I’m going to want to stay to the right.'”

He paused, smiled and added: “Of course, these days the ball always goes straight.”

New clubs or old, empty memories or full, Schiefelbusch and Gallup said they got the feeling that their young friends Salvador and Kanak someday would experience the same joys and thrills from the game that they had for the past 60 years. They hope they’re passing on a lot more than a couple sets of clubs.

“The main thing we wanted to do was get them interested in the game and help them spend more time together like we were able to,” Gallup said. “It’s a fun game. But if you’re a perfectionist, you won’t like it.”