Still rolling at 87 years old and taking on all comers

September 19, 2007|By RICK MAESE

Daddy Logan's not scared. He wants you to know that. He'll take on anyone and everyone. Your time, his dime.

On the first tee box, his drive skips ahead just far enough for a first down. "I don't have enough time on this here Earth to be wasting my energy on shots like that," he says, teeing up a mulligan.

His second first shot stays straight, about 150 yards down the first fairway, and Logan seems pleased. "You know what they say - bad start, good finish," he says, propping his body back into the golf cart and zipping off as if he were late for an appointment.

I don't know if you've met Logan before - you'd remember, if you had - but you might have seen him driving around town. He's hard to miss. He paid nearly $1,000 to have his old van, a 1989 Chevrolet, painted. On the spare tire on the back, it reads: "Daddy Logan Golf - 3 years from 90. Has been chosen by God to be the oldest golf player in the world. Would you like to play me 18 holes of golf?" His phone number and Web address - DaddyLogan.com - are listed, too.

The back story is explained in white paint on the van's passenger-side window: "I started playing golf when I was 73 years old. I got the idea from The Oprah Winfrey Show when Tiger Woods appeared on there. Oprah asked Tiger if he was going to attend college. Tiger said you don't have to go to school to play golf. So I said to myself this is for me."

And so here I am at Forest Park Golf Course, speeding down the first fairway in a golf cart with an 87-year-old man who's lived through the Great Depression, World War II and the civil rights movement - but it's a glib comment I had made in the clubhouse that seems to have drawn his ire. "Make sure you come back out," I teased when Logan visited the men's room just before our round. "Don't run off on me. No chickening out now."

"I don't want you running off," he said a bit later, sinking a 5-foot putt to tie the first hole. "I'm not scared of nothing."

The back story

Jacob Logan - called Daddy by everyone - took up the sport when he retired in 1993, and unlike a lot of leisurely duffers, he says it's not the relaxation or the interaction that has him on the course nearly every day of the week. It's the competition. "I'm trying to be the oldest and greatest golfer in the world," he says.

Logan is wearing black slacks, a checkered shirt and a black Kangol cap. On the second tee box, he laughs when I ask why he didn't take up the sport until so late in life. They didn't let a young black man swing a club, but they let him carry them. Logan was a caddie when he was younger, he says - 50 cents for nine holes, $1 for 18. Back then, "we didn't even know that we wanted to play," he says.

Logan spent his younger days working in the homes of white people in the North, right up until World War II. He moved to Baltimore in his early 20s to help build ships. That's about the time he met a pretty young woman named Estelle and decided to stick around the area. He started a bread business that kept him so busy that the idea of swinging a golf club didn't cross his mind until decades passed and he found himself sitting there watching The Oprah Winfrey Show, trying to figure out how he was going to spend his retirement.

He went out the next day and taught himself to golf. The past 14 years, he's treated golf as a second career - hitting the course early in the morning and returning home after dark. He didn't take lessons, doesn't waste time at the range and refuses to get caught up in gizmos and gadgets. There are just six clubs in his bag - three woods, a 6-iron, a wedge and a putter - and he can't figure out why anyone would need any more.

No gimmes

"Hell, no, I'm not giving you that," he shouts, as I walk up to my ball, just a foot from the hole. "You putt that ball. Ain't no such thing as a gimme. In fact, I ain't gonna give you the time of day."

His age is a point of pride, and though he can still poke the ball 175 yards, he doesn't mind letting others muscle their way to high scores. "Golf is a hell of a game. It's not for a strong back and a weak mind," he says. "Not a lot of things are. You got to use your brain, you hear?"

On the third hole, Logan picks up a stroke, but as I prod to figure out his game, he hoards his "secrets." "I can't tell you the whole book. We playing. Competing," he says. "You just starting out in life. I'm on my way out."

Daddy Logan is humming a song as he approaches a chip on the fourth hole. He never takes practice swings - at 87, he says he can't afford to waste the strokes. Addressing the ball, still humming, his body slowly tilts back and then pushes forward, like a pendulum in a grandfather clock. The ball stops rolling just 3 feet from the hole, and as Logan walks back to the cart, he starts singing the words.

"Life can be sweet," he sings, "on the sunny side of the street."

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