PORTLAND – Eighty-one-year-old George Carpenter of South Thomaston shot a 72 last week to win the Southern Maine Seniors tournament at the Purpoodock Club in Cape Elizabeth.

It was Carpenter’s first time playing the course.

On Tuesday, Carpenter did it again, shooting a 72 at Riverside in Portland in another Southern Maine Seniors event.

Again, it was his first time playing the course.

Shooting his age is nothing new for Carpenter, who has been a top player for years. Carpenter has bested his age some 680 times since he first did it at 68. How does he know?

“I was so excited the first time I did it, I made a note of it,” said Carpenter.

“I didn’t do it again for a few months but wrote it down again. I’ve been recording every one since.”

If his name is unfamiliar, that’s understandable. Carpenter lived most of his life in New Haven, Conn., where he worked as a stockbroker. He won the 1999 New England Senior Championship. Carpenter also has won a Connecticut Senior Championship, qualified for a U.S. Senior Amateur and has a half-dozen club championships to his credit, at the New Haven Country Club and Harbor Ridge Country Club in Palm City, Fla.

“George is a legend down in New Haven,” said Bob Marier of Kennebunkport, who lives next door to Carpenter in Florida.

Marier and Carpenter have been friends for 25 years, and Marier confirms that Carpenter has shot his age so many times.

“He always had a scratch or one-handicap in New Haven,” said Marier.

Since summering in Maine for the past seven years, Carpenter has played in only a handful of Southern Maine Seniors tournaments, as a substitute in Marier’s and Vic Nunan’s foursome.

These days he carries a five handicap.

Carpenter is admired by his golfing partners and others for his skill, stamina and personality.

Carpenter said he keeps his game in shape by playing six days a week in Florida and five days a week in Maine, usually at the Rockland Golf Club, where he is a member. He also stretches and uses light weights every morning.

“I do 45 minutes of stretching and exercising in the morning,” he said.

“I use 10-pound weights for about five minutes. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve maintained my flexibility. I was never a long hitter but I hit the ball far enough to hit all the greens. I think I play enough golf to stay in shape.”

Carpenter said his accuracy and course management are better than when he was younger.

“I think I keep the ball in play better. As you get older you tend not to hit it as hard,” he said.

Summarizing his round at Riverside, Carpenter said, “Nothing spectacular happened. I just kept it in play. That’s what I do. I birdied the first hole from a foot away.”

Carpenter was 3 under on the front nine and 3 over on the back.

At Purpoodock, Carpenter had four birdies and five bogeys.

“George is an inspiration with a capital I,” said Stu Potter of Falmouth, who played with Carpenter on Tuesday.

Potter, 69, a member at Harbor Ridge with Carpenter and Marier, won the Maine Junior title in 1959 as a Deering High golfer.

“George has an all-around game,” said Potter. “He hits it long and straight. He doesn’t miss too many shots. When he’s not on the green, he generally gets it up and down. George doesn’t get rattled and is a fierce competitor.

“He’s revered in Florida by all the people who play with him. As we get older, we don’t play as well. That decline is emotionally distressing for guys who have been avid golfers, but it’s a little less distressing for guys to see George play. It gives them hope that maybe they can play well for a few more years. A lot of golfers in their 70s and 80s would like to play more but they know if they do, it could drain them physically and make them less enthusiastic.

“George has the emotional strength, the desire and and the physical capabilities to play six days a week. I would be happy to just shoot my age once before I die.”

Like many golfers of his generation, Carpenter learned the game by caddying, at the Yale Golf Course in New Haven. Carpenter dabbled in golf as a youngster but didn’t start playing seriously until after college.

“I played baseball growing up and in college (Amherst). I also played other sports. When I decided I couldn’t play those sports any longer, I picked up golf. I didn’t play in much competition until I got older,” said Carpenter.

Carpenter has gotten better with age, but that’s not to say he hasn’t struggled with his game at times, particularly putting.

Carpenter said he battled the yips for a few years. He was fighting them when he won the New England Senior Amateur at age 70.

“I had to do something,” he said. “I couldn’t make a 2-footer. I couldn’t get the ball to the hole.”

Carpenter went to the long putter a few years ago.

“It saved the pleasure of golf for me,” he said.

Marier said his friend appears much younger than he actually is.

“If you spend any time with George, you don’t think of him as 81,” he said. “He’s like a 50-year-old.”

 

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at: [email protected]