October 5, 2007
Margaret Schranck never swung a golf club in her life, until she and her husband Joe retired to the Cape Region in the early 1980s.
She was just a bit distracted and busy with other stuff before the couple became active members of Rehoboth Beach Country Club.
Margaret’s opportunities for golf or any other sport were non-existent, as a child growing up in Wilmington during the Depression, in a family forced to scratch for every dollar. While working as a DuPont secretary during World War II and thereafter, she had no time and no inclination for such diversions.
As a young wife in the 1950s and 60s, with an ever-increasing brood that eventually totaled five children over ten years, the time that golf would demand of her was instead filled with child care, cooking, cleaning, and handling outside responsibilities as the wife of an active executive.
Her eventual second career job as the executive secretary for the Delaware Nature Education Society for twenty years helped spur her interest in and appreciation for the outdoors, but she still never found the occasion to play golf.
With her children out of the house, and with retirement and the move to Rehoboth, Margaret finally had the chance to stay physically active by doing something enjoyable, instead of lugging laundry up and down the stairs.
She took lessons from the club pros, and took the game as seriously as every other task she’d ever attempted—only this time, she also had a lot of fun.
Margaret obtained a full set of golf clubs and other equipment, and joined the country club’s Nine-Holer playing group.
She also looked the part completely. Her golf socks usually had those little fabric puff balls peeking out of the top of the heels of her spiked shoes. Her golf hat sported little ribbons on the side, where colored golf tees were slipped into the bows for easy access.
On her golf bag hung a small plaid purse, filled with more tees and ball markers. Her clubs included a large assortment of fairway woods, just the tools a diminutive retiree would need, and a classic bulls-eye putter.
Whenever I played with her, Margaret’s swing stayed the same. There was a noticeable pause at the beginning, a careful backswing to a set position, and then a slow downswing that produced a repeating result–usually a low bunt that traveled straight down the middle for 115 to 125 yards or so. She’d walk smartly up to the ball and repeat the same stroke until she reached the green, often wondering aloud what it would take to double her distance off the tee.
Though a short hitter, she sometimes surprised herself. One day we were playing with my father at Shawnee Country Club. Her tee shot on the 140-yard par 3 16th hole rolled to a stop about 25 yards short of the green. She took out an iron and hit a beautiful chip shot that landed on the front half of the green and rolled into the cup for a rare natural birdie. “That felt like an ace to me,” she told me. “I was so surprised!”
Margaret eventually became too frail to play, as a series of surgeries and ailments kept her off the course. She often watched the Golf Channel, however, and always let me know which golfers she thought deserved applause, and which ones didn’t.
She finally succumbed on October 1, but I like to think that she’s returned to playing golf.
Goodbye, Mom. We’ll be out on the course together soon.
(This is an updated version of a column I wrote two years ago. She enjoyed the surprise at the time. I hope she likes this one, too.)