The old golfing joke goes like this: Four older men were playing one Sunday when a funeral procession drove past.
George took off his cap, placed it over his heart and stood somberly.
One golfing partner complimented his respectful attitude.
“Well,” George replied, “if she had hung on a few more days, we’d have made our 50th wedding anniversary.”
All kidding aside, golf is Lloyd Rumford’s salvation.
For 69 days and nights last year, the Spokane man sat at his critically ill wife’s bedside.
But four hours every day, the 79-year-old sought solace on a golf course.
Pauline Rumford, who since has recovered from open-heart surgery, encouraged nothing less.
“That’s what I wanted him to do,” she says. “He’s wonderful. What he does I approve of and like and encourage.”
The Rumfords have been married 60 years. During the last 12, Rumford’s passion for Pauline has been rivaled only by his love of golf.
According to managers and players at his home course of Esmeralda near Hillyard, no one in Spokane loves the game more or plays it as often.
“We can count on seeing him about every day,” says Esmeralda head professional Bill Warner.
Rumford played 18-hole rounds on 307 days last year, including 247 days in a row. On the other 58 days, all four of the city courses were closed due to bad weather.
Since 1983, Rumford has logged nearly 2,700 rounds and compiled an amazing list of achievements.
He has shot his age 23 times in front of witnesses, 10 times in 1993. Once is considered remarkable.
He has shot 74 twice and once had a hole in one.
“Nineteen eighty-eight. March 23. No. 12 at Ezzy. Took two bounces and jumped in the hole. I used a 15-wood,” Rumford says as matter-of-factly as a computer readout.
Rumford records every round of golf and how much he pays for a discounted senior’s pass.
His cost per round is enough to turn most golfers green with envy.
From 1983 through last year, 18 holes cost Rumford an average of $2.17. The greens fee at Esmeralda is $13.50; at the city’s The Creek at Qualchan, it’s $16.50.
Rumford plays nearly every round at Esmeralda because the course suits his game and age.
The fairways are wide and the holes short. There are no water hazards to sink golf balls and few sand traps to snag errant shots.
But he can score well anywhere.
He shot 83 last year at the challenging Qualchan course.
“Golf has been a godsend for me,” says the Kansas native and retired contractor. “It gives me something to do. I play about well enough to keep myself interested, and I win a few nickels off my friends.”
When Rumford plays golf, he’s all business.
There isn’t a lot of banter with partner George Sowl. Just a grin when a long putt drops.
“He’s certainly an avid golf nut, that’s for sure,” says Sowl, 76. “When he gets to playing for a nickel a hole, he’s tough to beat.”
Rumford played his first round of golf in the early 1950s and shot 166. For the next 30 years, he played only once a year or so.
In 1982, Rumford began playing regularly.
High school sweetheart Pauline bought him a motorized golf cart a few years ago. “Husbands and wives should have individual interests,” she says.
Pauline, a bowler, has only accompanied Lloyd on the golf course once.
It was in 1991 on a day Rumford played 18 holes at Esmeralda, 18 at Indian Canyon and 18 more at Downriver. Pauline was there for the last round.
After she fell ill last year, Rumford was wracked with worry. He needed an escape, and Pauline gave her blessing.
“Golf was really the only way to get away from the medical problems. I said, ‘Pauline, I have to play golf today, I have to.”’
MEMO: IDAHO HEADLINE: Only weather halts appointed rounds