Tom Keegan: Lawrence golfer proves it’s never too late to pick up the game

I would label my myriad golf swing thoughts as competing, except that in competitions there generally is a winner and all of my swing thoughts clearly are losers.

Given that, I’ve always thought that reading the book “Zen Golf” might be the key to vacuuming the clutter between the ears. It’s just that clearing the mind seems such an unattainable goal, almost a one-in-a-million shot.

Even at those odds, mastering Zen Golf is a more realistic goal than playing Zinn Golf.

For an amateur, the odds of a hole-in-one on any given par 3 are most commonly listed at 1 in 12,000.

The odds of a double-eagle, also known as an albatross, are listed in some places at 1 in 3 million. Others estimate it at 1 in 6 million. That makes carding three under on a hole more than 100 times rarer than a hole-in-one.

In honor of the most recent Lawrence golfer to achieve the rare feat, for the rest of this summer, let’s not refer to it as a double-eagle or an albatross. Let’s call it Zinn Golf.

An attorney at Emerson Barber, Dick Zinn, 77, has been playing golf for a mere nine years. Of late, Zinn had been struggling so badly trying to hit iron shots that he decided to take a lesson from Eagle Bend teaching pro Jon Zylstra.

“We used a 7-iron,” Zinn said. “I’ll have to tell Jon the quality of the lesson was so extraordinary I went out and shot a double-eagle.”

Zinn initially was reticent to talk about achieving his rare feat, to which I was tipped by co-worker Terry Campbell, a more experienced golfer more in tune with just how unusual a feat his friend had accomplished.

photo by: Contributed photo

Dick Zinn

Playing with friend Norm Waitley at hot and muggy Eagle Bend on Wednesday afternoon from the senior tees, Zinn hit his drive past the 150-yard pole, leaving himself 140 yards from the pin.

He pulled his 7-iron out of his bag and put a swing on it that would have put a smile on Zylstra’s face had he seen it, and would have made him do a backflip had he watched the ball disappear.

“It was almost magic,” Zinn said, then explained what made it so. “It rolled around the cup and then just lingered on the edge of the cup, and then went plop.”

A par would have given him an 86. Instead, he shot an 83.

A native of Wichita who played football and rugby at Stanford, Zinn took up golf when friends invited him to join the team they were putting together for a tournament as part of their 50th high school reunion.

“I started pondering why they had asked me, and it become evident to me they wanted me on their golf team so they’d have an excuse to lose,” Zinn said. “You don’t want to be the reason why they lost a golf tournament, so I took a couple of lessons, bought some clubs and said, ‘This is really kind of fun.’ It’s an extraordinarily rewarding but difficult game.”

Zinn had the good fortune a few years ago of playing with someone who imparted advice that made it easier for him to keep his cool after bad shots.

“He said, ‘You’re not good enough to be mad.’ I’ve developed a sense of humility about the game,” Zinn said.

That goes for his football career as well.

“I played football in the nadir of Stanford football,” he said. “We were 0-10 in 1960, so I have great empathy for the kids at KU who are struggling with this program.”

That Stanford football team was unable to buck the odds to pull off the upset. It took him 58 years, but beating much longer odds was worth the wait for a man who stands as a shining example that it’s never too late to take up golf.


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