91-year-old golfer doesn't let age keep her from playing it straight

Aug. 5, 2011 at 3:05 a.m.

Ruth Higginbotham has 12 trophies on the shelves of her Bloomington home, memories from her years playing golf.

But none are more memorable than the first trophy she won all those years ago in Colorado City.

She hadn't been playing for long at that time, but got a chance in a tournament to win a trophy, and a little something else, too.

"It was before Thanksgiving, and they had a smoked turkey for the person who got closest to the hole," she said. "Wouldn't you know it, I won the turkey."

In celebration, her husband, J.B. "Jake" Higginbotham, adorned the turkey on Thanksgiving day with a tee and golf ball on top to mark the achievement.

That was 1960. Higginbotham, now 91, has been playing golf for more than five decades, using the sport all these years as a way to stay active. She plays semi-regularly with the Riverside Women's Golf Association, which meets every Thursday morning for rounds of golf.

She golfs with her daughter, Sandy Langford, who has been golfing regularly for five years, and used to play on and off for a while after moving to Victoria from Colorado.

Watching Higginbotham on the course shows how good she still is. She's lost a lot of distance on her shots - her tee shot maybe travels 100 yards, and that's with several bounces - but she almost never finds the rough.

She's a model of consistency for her fellow players, although not always an exciting one. It's something her daughter and playing partner marvels at.

"Mother plays boring golf, because she plays straight down the middle," Langford said. "I like to play army golf. I go left, right, left, right up the course.

"She's just very consistent in her game. Over the years, she's lost a lot of distance, she doesn't hit it like she used to."

Higginbotham used to be able to hit the ball with the best of them, and remembers the one hole-in-one she was able to hit in all of her years playing golf.

She calls it the worst shot she ever made.

"It was No. 3, it had water in front of it," she said. "And I really hit a bad shot, but it just ran up on the green, and went in the hole."

Her daughter giggled.

"I'd like to have a bad shot like that," she said.

The game has changed a lot since Higginbotham first started playing with her husband in 1960. When she started, the courses in Victoria were different.

"They've made some holes a lot longer since then," Higginbotham said.

Her husband, J.B., was the driving force in getting her to play golf. The two were married in 1937, but it was a moment of serendipity that got both into golf.

"He came up one year for Christmas and gave me a set of golf clubs," Higginbotham said. "I had to do something about that, so we started playing golf. he hadn't played much golf either, but he was a natural at it."

And so was Ruth, who said she has never had a formal lesson in her life. Everything she learned, she said, was from her husband. For years, they played golf together, even going on the road to play.

"They had a travel trailer, and they would travel all over the place and play the different courses," Langford said.

Though she didn't play regularly for a long time after learning how to play.

"But I didn't play real often then, just occasionally," she said. "I really started playing about 1970 when we moved to Victoria. I played out with the ladies at the (Victoria) Country Club."

She's taken to the golf course regularly since. It's also good exercise, so she makes sure she finds time to play.

"It's real challenging," she said with a chuckle.

Her husband died in 1995, and it was around that time that she started playing with the group of women she plays with today.

"I started playing with them about 1996, but they've been here even longer," Higginbotham said.

Higginbotham keeps herself busy throughout the week. Tuesdays are dominoes with friends. Wednesdays are Bible study. Thursdays are golf. Fridays, she meets a large group of friends for lunch. Then there's always gardening and yard work to get done, riding a large riding mower around the property. Sunday, she plays piano in church.

"This has been going on for years," she said.

Langford said she cherishes the time she gets to spend with her mother, out on the course and off it.

"I admire her so much," she said. "The things that she does, you wouldn't believe it. They always have to be on the schedule, because she's constantly doing things.

"This has been something I'll never forget, playing golf with her."



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