"Hot on The Trail" September 2016 Athlete of the Month

John Younce, 68, South Shore, Kentucky

Just about anyone who golfs has a bucket list of courses they hope to visit while they chase the little white ball and ponder life. There are dozens of individual dream courses such as Pebble Beach, Pinehurst and TPC Sawgrass, but one name on many lists represents a collection of 26 championship courses at 11 locations that span the state of Alabama – The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.

John Younce, who has competed in six National Senior Games and picked up gold medals for his effort in 2011 and again last year in Minnesota, has circled the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana on his calendar since the host city was named.

“There are so many great courses and a lot of good golf down there,” the Kentuckian says. “The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is a Mecca, and I expect there will probably be a lot of athletes who will stick around and play a few of them.”

To say John is anxious to get to The Games in the Heart of Dixie next June is an understatement. “As a matter of fact, the son of a friend of mine is a golf pro in Birmingham, and we just went down there and actually played Oxmoor Valley and Ross Bridges, which are both on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail,” he says. “I took some pictures in anticipation that they might be where the competitions will be.” John’s intuition was on target: Oxmoor Valley will indeed be one of the three courses used for national play.

Prior to his senior golf career, the retired school superintendent and educator is most proud for coaching his high school football team, and two American League youth baseball teams, to state championships. After his sons grew up, John decided to pick up his golf clubs again and enjoyed playing rounds with them. He read about a senior golf tournament, got involved and then learned about qualifying to compete in the National Senior Games. He worked at his game, even devising a driving range in his Eastern Kentucky backyard to practice, despite the rolling eyes of his wife.

“My first was in Pittsburgh in 2005, and I’ve been fortunate enough to qualify since then,” he states. While John has racked up a number of other age group tournaments throughout the Midwest and South, and is ranked in NSGA top ten all-time scratch golf scores in two age divisions, he is not boastful about his accomplishments. “Golf is the hardest game I have ever participated in to become good at. These guys come from all of the states, so it was a thrill to win the first gold in Houston,” he says. “And when I won the second one, I mean, it’s just kind of unbelievable.”

The enduring benefit beyond keeping himself fit is the social connections established from traveling around the country to compete with his peers. “I’ve made some good friends along the way. It’s great to come together and share stories with these guys,” he notes. “I’m very competitive, but I like to have fun and enjoy the company. I don’t get mad or throw clubs around, that’s not what it’s about.”

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