The pin on the 119-yard par-3 16th at Liberty Lake on Monday was on the front portion of the long, narrow green. Tom Casto struck his 9-iron cleanly and figured his ball would settle on the green, hopefully close to the hole.
It turned out a little better than that.
“I wasn’t even watching it that closely, I can’t see that well anyway,” Casto said. “According to the guys I played with, they said it landed on the green and rolled in. I didn’t see it go in. I thought maybe they were pulling my leg a little bit.
“I said, ‘Are you sure?’, and they said they’d seen it go in. They were walking and I had a cart. I got up to the green and looked and sure enough it was in there.”
And that’s how one makes his first career hole-in-one. At age 90.
Casto said he has shot his age at least three times, including a 76 when he was 77. That’s a rare feat, but there’s nothing like a hole-in-one. (Yes, I’m taking his word for it since I’m still in pursuit of an ace).
“The feeling was tremendous,” Casto said. “Both guys I was playing with gave me a big hand. Then I noticed they were talking to someone else and they came over and gave me congratulations.”
Casto took up the game on a consistent basis after retiring at age 62. He graduated from Rathdrum High, now called Lakeland High, and became a teacher, with stops at Rose Lake, Spirit Lake, Waterville and Coulee Dam.
His first job was Rose Lake, where he found out after he was hired that he was also expected to coach football, baseball and basketball. He was demonstrating a football drill when he first hurt his knee.
Casto also sold investments during summers and found he was making more money than his teaching salary. The family moved to Spokane and he took up the profession full time.
After retiring, Casto played area courses and his handicap dropped to a 9. He won a three-day amateur tournament at Liberty Lake 15-20 years ago and used the $300 in merchandise to purchase Henry-Griffitts clubs.
“So that’s the old, decrepit iron, who so much resembles me in my older age that happens to be my best friend now in the field of golf,” wrote Casto, a former English teacher who occasionally writes golf-themed stories and limericks.
Casto walked area courses until he was 82, when his knee decided it might be time to ride in a cart. For nearly two decades he’s played with the Over the Hill Gang that alternates between MeadowWood and Liberty Lake.
Casto was away from the game the last few years to care for his wife while she was recovering from shoulder surgery. He’s played 5-6 rounds this year and estimates his handicap at 22 based on those scores.
“When I go out with him he’ll say, ‘I can’t hit it more than 200 yards anymore,’ and I’ll say, ‘Well, you are 90,’ ” son Bill said. “He’s fiercely competitive and he doesn’t think age should slow him down. He’s had a heart attack, he’s got a pacemaker in him and he has a little hip problem but he’s active. He’s a cool guy. I’m glad to have him as my dad.”
The elder Casto sticks to an exercise regimen. He walks 2-3 miles on weekdays and does stretching and flexibility exercises for 15-20 minutes.
“My pulse is generally around 62,” he said. “I’m going to play as long as I’m able. That keeps me alive, it keeps strengthening my muscles. There’s a lot of twisting and turning and it’s tough on your body, but it’s better for you and it’s what you need. If I’m going to be a caregiver I have to be in good shape.”
Bill suggested Tom “should find the ball I used (to make the hole-in-one). That’s easy. It is marked from hitting the cart path. He thinks I should use the ball and do some things with it to serve as a remembrance.
“As for me,” Tom wrote, “I’m just waiting for the next tee time.”