Never hit a hole on a bad lie.
Never hit a ball from the sand trap.
Never worry about a ball that ends up in the water — those balls don’t count.
Those are the rules Bill Colton, Stefan Dekowski, Ed Mues and Frank Howard follow when they play golf every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Resort at Longboat Key Club’s Islandside golf course.
Here are the stats on each golfer.
At 90, Colton is the youngest player. He’s the retired president of Griffin Pipe Products and reached nonagenarian status in September and celebrated by — you guessed it — playing golf.
He jokes that the group should call itself the “Over the Hill Gang.”
Dekowski, 91, is a Polish-born retired neurosurgeon who took up golf when he won a ball retriever as a door prize at a physicians conference in the early 1950s. More than 50 years later, he has never taken a golf lesson. He’s a good putter, but he’s never quite mastered a swing.
Howard, also 91, is a retired orthopedic surgeon, but, unlike Dekowski, he’s taken many golf lessons.
During his career in medicine, however, he stuck to tennis.
“Tennis was much more competitive,” Howard said. “Golf is more cerebral.”
At 96, Mues is the oldest of the bunch.
On a recent Friday morning, he sank the ball with a nice putt on the last hole of the morning.
“Hey, did you see that?” he called to his friends.
His buddies agree he’s the best golfer among them, although, that only matters if you’re keeping score — which they stopped doing years ago.
Back when Mues was still keeping score, he accomplished a major feat by golfing his age. He was 84. It’s one goal that Mues, a retired executive vice president of American Whole Products, found gets easier to reach the older you get.
Colton, Dekowski, Mues and Howard have been close friends for approximately 15 years. They were part of a larger group that started playing golf together more than 20 years ago. The rest of the group members have since died.
Today, they joke the pros on the golf course check their heart rates instead of their clubs in the morning.
Just being on the course is a feat each day, especially for two of the golfers.
Colton’s doctor told him to buy life insurance back in 1970, after he had a heart attack.
“It was a good thing, because I started exercising and eating better,” he said. “I’m very, very lucky.”
Dekowski, too, suffered a heart attack, in 1979. His doctor gave him five to 10 years to live.
Each of the men believes golf keeps him young.
“It keeps the heart beating,” Mues said.
But maybe it’s not the golf.
“Golf is practically secondary now,” Mues said.
“We really enjoy the golf,” Howard said. “But we enjoy each other more.”
92 — The median age of the “Over the Hill Gang”
15 — The approximate number of years they’ve been friends
9 — The number of holes they golf
3 — The number of times they golf each week