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By Julia Pine
When Harry Elliot was 90 years old, he played 250 rounds of golf in one year. The most astonishing part? That was eight years ago, and he is no less of a presence at Sunset Hills CC now than he was then.
The 98-year-old SCGA member is an icon at his club. He still golfs there two to three times per week, despite having lived almost a century, and is recognized by almost everyone at the facility. His house is just down the block.
“I’ve been a member here for 44 years,” says Harry. “I took my wife here when it was just a small executive course and she got hooked so we joined the club. Soon afterwards she made sure we bought a house here. It’s a nice course and a nice group of people.”
Elliot started golfing when he was 12 years old. He lived in North Hollywood, and his grandparents would take him out to a number of local courses, including Griffith Park where he would play all three courses that were there at the time (Wilson, Harding and Roosevelt).
“Parts of the courses were basically just asphalt with sand on them,” Elliot remembers. “And the flags were made out of old tarps.”
But there were some positives; Elliot recalls that it cost just 75 cents to play the courses on weekends.
“And for that fee, you could play all day long!” he adds.
And it’s clear Elliot spent many days taking advantage of the all-you-can-play fee. While golfers always hope to have that elusive round where they shoot their age, Elliot has done it dozens of times. In fact, he’s bested his age by as many as a dozen.
“The first time I shot my age was when I was 71; I shot a 70,” he says. “But the best I ever did was when I was 84 and I shot an 82. Now that was fun.”
Want to know what else was fun? The time Harry played a trick on the rest of his club earlier this year. There are two social groups at Sunset Hills that get together and play pretty often. Harry is in one called the Bandits, and earlier this year, the two groups got together to play a Ryder-Cup-style match that they called the Harry Elliot Cup, in honor of their most senior member. They asked Harry to hit the leading ball.
“I figured, who wants to see an old man hit a golf ball?” Harry says with a smile. “That would be so boring. So instead, I told my friend [and club president] Benny that we should get one of those exploding balls and not tell anyone.”
And that’s exactly what they did.
“So we put one of those exploding balls up and Harry hit his best shot of the day,” says Benny McNulty.
“And it exploded with a big puff of white!” chimes in Harry. “It was my first time hitting one of those.”
Harry got married when he was 17, and it is clear from talking to him about his late wife (the two are pictured right) that he still feels it was the best decision he ever made. Right off the bat the young man considered marriage an important responsibility. Smack in the middle of The Great Depression, Harry felt a lot of pressure on himself to make a substantial living for his family. He worked at a gas station, in an ice house, whatever he could do to provide. He seemed to do just fine.
“My daughter recently turned 80!” said Harry. “However my wife died 15 years ago. It’s tough. Talking about it still brings back a lot of memories. A lot of great memories.”
Harry’s daughter, despite being older herself, still comes out to California from her home on the East Coast to visit her father twice a year, once in April for his birthday and once in October so they can together celebrate her mother’s birthday. But despite being 80 years of age, Harry and his daughter still have their misunderstandings.
“A couple of months ago Harry was on the phone with his daughter,” explains Benny. “All of a sudden, Harry’s end of the phone goes quiet, and she is saying ‘Dad? Dad!’ with no reply. She hangs up and calls Harry’s good friend Anna who jumps in her car and heads over to Harry’s place. She grabs the spare key and bursts into the house. What does she see? Harry sitting there on his chair, snoring, with the phone still pressed up against his ear.”
“That’ll tell you how boring my daughter is!” says Harry. “She sure can talk and talk and talk.”
Golf is something Harry will never give up. Although he admits that he’s threatened to quit before, all those that know him well know he never will.
“I just enjoy playing,” says Harry.
“And we enjoy playing with you,” adds Benny as he turns his attention to me. “Harry is truly the nicest man I’ve ever met. I’ve never heard him say a bad word about somebody, and I’ve never heard anybody say a bad word about him.”