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April 20, 2013

DODD: Far from par for the course

Longtime Twilight owner Mary Richardson is an ace

“Golf is a fascinating game. It’s taken me nearly 40 years to discover that I can’t play it.” — Ted Ray

Mary Richardson told me about a man who was and still is a really good golfer. One day he was boasting in front of several buddies that for a $100 bet he would give her a stroke per hole for nine holes and still beat her.

One evening as he approached the sixth hole at Twilight Golf Course she called him over and said, “I will take you up on that bet right now.”

After nine holes were complete, Mary had beaten the guy by two strokes. She didn’t mean by being given the 9 strokes. She beat him by two shots straight up.

“I let him believe he was going to pay me the $100 right up until we got to the clubhouse and then wouldn’t take his money. Just winning was all the payment I needed.”

Mary and her late husband, Omer, came to visit some friends in Louisville, Ky., in 1974. On a lark, they decided not to take the Interstate back to their home in Chicago and decided instead on the scenic route up Ind. 62. As they passed Twilight Golf Course, she asked her husband to pull over.

“I thought that looked like a fun place to stop.”

That chance pullover led to their eventually buying Twilight that fall, and Mary is still running it today. Her husband of more than 50 years passed away in 1997.

I know it’s impolite to ask a woman her age. Mary told me anyway but I will not be rude enough to put it in print. I am thinking of taking her to the Kentucky State Fair this summer to the “Guess Your Age” booth. I will definitely come away with a large stuffed animal.

I stopped by to see Mary since I had heard Twilight was for sale and wouldn’t be open this season. She confessed there was a sign up for a short time but for now any sale is being delayed for at least one more summer. I almost cannot imagine the drive home each night without passing by Twilight Golf course in operation. It’s a Jeffersonville landmark.

Times were hard for a family with eight kids whose mother died while she was young. Her first job was at a soda fountain when she was 15. I asked her if she flirted with the teenage boys back then.

“No, they flirted with me!” she replied.

Mary has worked hard every since that first soda jerk position, recalling tougher times.

“We usually liked to work where we could eat!”

Her late husband loved golf and the two were looking for a small business when they happened upon Twilight. She wanted the former World War II hero (whose plane was shot down on his 19th mission over Germany) to find a way to escape workplace stress often compounded by his post traumatic stress disorder.

She was looking for work after being replaced by machinery at her job. Almost four decades later, her summer will be again spent giving free lessons and keeping the iconic course playable.

Ashley and Adam Hoff stopped in while Mary and I were sitting in her golf cart. I asked them about Twilight. Ashley recalled Mary’s free lesson which eventually led her to join her high school golf team.

Why Twilight, I asked.

“You can’t play 9 holes for $6 anywhere,” she said.

Adam says during the summer he and his sister are regulars.

“About once a week during the summer.”

Mary doesn’t play golf anymore but still loves to teach beginners the fundamentals of the game, and over the years has entertained many high school students on a really fun field trip. She estimates that she has taught literally thousands of golf swings over the years.

“If I had $5 for every lesson I’ve given, I’d be a millionaire.”

She recalled once straightening out an erroneous swing for a young lady who had been taught lessons by a golf pro.

“He hadn’t shown her that (demonstrating for me how to hold the arm and when to use the wrists). Those five rounds of golf lessons had cost her $350.”

For years, Mary could shoot par regularly on the par 3 course, and her best score for the 18 holes was a two-under-par total of 52.

My first few rounds of golf were on the Twilight course. My biggest handicap on a golf course was always my baseball and softball background. Mary tells me to come by for one of her free lessons and she can fix that. Friends of mine who have suffered through watching my golf swing over the last 30 years might chip in and pay her $350 to do that.

The fees are a still a family friendly $6 for nine holes, $9 for 18 holes and $10 gets you all day play. The course is located at 5316 Ind. 62 and you can call for information regarding special events at 812-288-8871.

Mary’s sister Lena Wolcott has come to town to help this summer and her new companion is now former Jeffersonville barber Theo Baker. The two are sharing their own twilight years together and Theo’s retirement from barbering still involves a lot of trimming and cutting, but now its on fairways and greens.

There is a sign that instructs you to start playing on your own if she arrives a bit past sunrise while sipping that extra cup of coffee with Theo and Lena. Mary advises, “If we aren’t here go ahead and start and we’ll catch you on the way out.”

Just try to do that at one of those fancy country club courses.

— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at lindon.dodd@hotmail.com

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