63 years old joins the college golf team | News

Debbie Blount is, for the most part, your average college undergraduate, trying to get through the semester amid piles of homework and a hectic after-school schedule.

She loves her history lessons but struggles with statistics, a subject she calls the “scourge of [her] She has just declared a major – interdisciplinary studies – and spends much of her time studying off campus. in women’s golf – her favorite time of day.

But just a year earlier, she feared she wouldn’t fit in among her classmates some 40 years younger.

Blount is a 63-year-old sophomore at Reinhardt University in Georgia and a beloved member of the women’s golf team. She’s a few decades past most of her classmates, instructors, and head coaches, but they don’t see her as a mother figure or grandmother. Instead, they see her as a friend, a role model and a reliable teammate with an exceptionally straight ride.

As one of the oldest female student athletes in the United States, her friends call her “Ancient Eagle”, after Reinhardt’s mascot. “Ancient” may be a gross exaggeration of Blount’s age, but she likes to think she imparts some wisdom to her younger teammates.

“It’s a game, we’re in this together…we’re really lucky to be doing this,” she said of the things she keeps in mind while playing. “There are a lot more serious things in life than playing golf, and I think they understand some of them.”

She pursued college golf after her husband’s death

College was not in the cards for Blount when she graduated from high school in 1976. Her parents pushed her to become an X-ray technician, telling her it would be a stable career. They were right, she said, though she had a feeling she would have made a good PE teacher too.

But before deciding to become an X-ray technician, she discussed going to college with a guidance counselor, who only suggested one school – Reinhardt University in Waleska, Georgia. , not far from where Blount grew up.

“Reinhardt has always been on my mind,” she said.

Golf, initially, was not. Blount first stepped onto a golf course at age 33 – after meeting her husband, Ben. Her husband loved the game and she wanted to spend more time with him, so she took up golf as a hobby. But Blount, still an athlete, felt “a bit driven.” She made up for lost time with constant training, eventually competing in some local championships. Golf has become part of his weekly routine.

When her husband died after years of illness, she moved to Vail, Colorado to teach skiing full time. But when her father died a few months after her husband, she was left without a rudder.

“I was a bit lost,” she said.

After they died, she came across a 1970s yearbook from Reinhardt University, where her husband’s mother had worked in a dormitory — another sign “calling Reinhardt,” she said.

“I found myself going through these directories, wondering if that would have been me.”

Meanwhile, his golf game was becoming stale. She lost a championship competing against her friends at her golf club. She asked a young caddy at her club where he played. Reinhardt University, he told her.

Here it is again‘, Blount thought.

The idea of ​​starting school at 62 was daunting at first. Blount wasn’t sure she could take full-time lessons – but “golf was calling her,” she said, so after meeting a Reinhardt coach and showing off her skills, she committed to start over as a college. first-year student.

She has been on the team for a year. While it’s easy to complain about her busy school schedule or the meetings she canceled after a long day of practice, Blount said she was simply grateful for the opportunity — an opportunity that she won with skill and courage.

“I’m going to live the dream,” she said. “I look around and can’t believe I can do this.”

She fits in with her younger teammates

During a recent Monday afternoon practice at the driving range, Blount was relaxed and giddy with her teammates, all in their late teens or early twenties. She made them laugh and cheered them on (at a golf-friendly volume). “The girls,” as she calls her younger teammates, thought about what matching accessories they’ll wear at their next tournament.

“We get sharp,” she said of her swing at one point. “But my last name is Blount, I can’t be sharp.”

Blount missed a putt during a drill, shrugging with a smile. She believes positive thinking is the key to success, but maybe she wasn’t thinking positive enough for this putt.

She speaks of her younger teammates with the same effusive love she uses when speaking of her dear friends at her golf club. Blount never had children, but she said being around the close-knit group of young women so often shows her what it could have been like to have a daughter their age. Their parents write notes to Blount, thanking her for the “wisdom” she brought to their team, she said.

Blount said she was afraid of “bringing nothing to the team,” but those fears were unfounded. Lauren Welte, a player Blount hailed as an impressive leader, said the 63-year-old was an “incredible” addition to the team. Initially, Welte wasn’t thrilled to play alongside a 60-year-old, but after going through 18 holes together in the pouring rain – their first meeting – she was completely sold.

Different people have different views on what makes Blount such a vital member of the Reinhardt team. In terms of skill, despite not sending the ball as far as her teammates in her first game, Blount “hits the most straight out of all of us,” Welte said, and shoots often in her mid-80s.

Evans Nichols, the 26-year-old head coach of the women’s golf team, hailed the “good energy” she brings to the team, a vivid reminder that “golf is a lifelong sport. the life”. And while younger players can lash out after a bad play, Blount is a beacon of stability, said Bill Popp, Reinhardt’s vice president for enrollment and athletics, a role model for students who haven’t further honed their emotional game.

Motivating the young women on her team to improve their game has given her an idea of ​​what she will be doing when she graduates. While she could still ‘go off into the sunset’ with her boyfriend and ‘play the retirement game’, she thinks she’ll likely end up coaching youngsters – perhaps as a graduate assistant at Reinhardt .

For now, though, she’s thinking short-term: She’s just been nominated for reunion queen. She has already recruited the girls to help her find a dress for the event, a request they happily accepted.


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