JAY — Twenty years ago, when former Jay resident Bill Benedetto and his wife, Barbara, moved into a retirement community in Oregon, he bought her a brand new set of golf clubs so she could learn how to play the game.
Now, those very same clubs have helped the Wilsonville High School girls golf team rapidly improve.
“She was so proud of the driver and those irons!” Bill, 87, recalled in an email as he talked about his wife’s passion for the game that developed when she received the clubs. “The game helped us immensely to become acquainted with others in the community.”
In 2009, Barbara passed away due to pneumonia and Bill “began the process of emotionally dealing with a tremendous loss of a soul mate, downsizing and generally getting rid of various items.” Her clubs were in the garage, and he didn’t want to get rid of them.
One day, however, as he was driving past the driving range at Charbonneau Golf Club, he spotted a group of teenage girls teeing off and wondered if they needed golf clubs. Bill then drove back and approached coach Mike Nichols. Nichols identified the girls as members of the local high school golf team.
“I informed him that I had recently lost my wife and wondered if any of his girls could use her golf clubs,” he said. “Coach got really excited and said yes, definitely, some of his team members just couldn’t afford to buy clubs, bags, shoes, etc., items they needed to play the game. It just hit me then that it would be a wonderful memorial to donate the equipment in her name to a younger person who had a great need for them.”
Bill did just that, and also inserted a note in one of the bag’s pockets that read, “Donated as a memorial to my loving wife, Barbara Benedetto.” He said he still wonders if anyone found the note.
Soon after the club donation, Bill and Nichols teamed up to talk with the Charbonneau Ladies’ Niners Club, a 143-member golfing group for women, about the girls’ golf program and to try to inspire them to donate. Bill realized that involving the group to not only donate clubs and equipment but to also serve as role models for the girls was critical.
“And they fulfilled the role in a great way!” he said. “In effect, we were able to create a gift that keeps on giving, and one that may ultimately result in other communities following suit.”
Not only did the team receive more golf clubs than it could use, but also golf balls, shoes and donations. The golf club also placed a spot on new member application forms, giving prospective members the option of donating to the program.
Bill reflected upon the lessons that can be learned through playing golf.
“There is an obvious social aspect to the game, which is very helpful to older guys, and it is the only physical game I know that crosses age and sex barriers,” he said. “You can have a foursome consisting of a grandfather, father or mother, and son or daughter. Believe it or not, they are all on equal turf when it comes to who the winner will be.
“Not the least, the game is also physically challenging,” he continued. “Carrying a bag full of clubs over an 18-hole course and swinging a club is obviously great physical exercise. More importantly, with the focus of concentrating on the game, ‘elders’ are seemingly more at ease in describing their own life experiences and their values with the younger players, a talk which might be more difficult in a typical family setting.”
He also noted the challenge players face in trying to perfect their swing, “an unattainable objective sometimes exemplified by the Greek mythological figure, Sisyphus, condemned by the gods to roll a boulder up a hill. Upon reaching the top, the gods then caused the boulder to roll back down to the base of the hill, whereupon Sisyphus would again try, endlessly, to roll the boulder back up the hill — in other words, perform an unattainable task. That, to most golfers, describes the impossible task of attaining the perfect swing. But, it all has one major virtue: The game keeps the old-timers out of mischief.”