Senior Citizens of Sports Strike Again!

Last fall, my small high school held a reunion which included a few years of graduating classes (a few years before and few years after our graduation year) so that we would have a nice sized gathering of friends on hand.  It was a fabulous evening!

If you haven’t seen most of your former classmates in several decades, it takes a bit of time to get used to seeing “Sally” with her new lighter-shade of hair color.  Ol’ Bob may not as much hair as he used to, either.  Some of us have added a few pounds (OK, I’m about 30 pounds heavier than my rail-thin former self as a senior in high school).

Once you finally recognize a long-time friend via their eyes and smile, it is a wonderful thing to behold.   It was such a treat to see so many of my old friends – all together – for what might be our last time.  You just never know, right?  The three hours spent at my high school reunion last year may have been the fastest three hours of my life.

What does this have to do with sports?  Plenty!

In case you haven’t noticed, there have been a number of us OG’s (Old Guys) making the sports headlines recently.

Remembering Hal Sutton (???)

Shreveport’s Hal Sutton, the 1983 PGA Championship winner, is now 65 years of age.

Though he still has family back in northwest Louisiana, the 14-time PGA winner and former Ryder Cup captain moved to Texas several years ago.  After decades of playing professional golf, Hal Sutton has transformed into a golf instructor and golf course designer.

Sutton has spent much of his time in the past year designing and completing a new golf course in Columbus, Texas (halfway between Houston and San Antonio) which is set to open in June.

Until Hal Sutton passed away recently!??

Apparently, the print version of the March, 2024 PGA Magazine inadvertently listed Hal Sutton in their obituary section as having died on January 19, 2024.

That was big news to him!  Hal posted a funny response via Twitter/ after several friends and fans notified him about this very surprising revelation.

“Just a correction, the PGA Magazine put me in the obituaries as having passed away January 19th!!! I didn’t and I’m alive and well – just putting the finishing touches on Darmor Club before our opening June 1. Thanks to all who have checked up on me (smile emoji).”

Ironically, the person who actually did pass away on January 19 this year was one of Sutton’s former instructors and close friend, Jackie Burke.  Mr. Burke was 100 years old.

Hal Sutton (obviously relieved to know that he is still among the living) added, “I don’t know but it was a reminder to be grateful for life. A lot of people checked on me so I was thankful for that.”

Indeed!  Note to Shreveport’s Northwood High School and Centenary College – please keep Hal Sutton on your reunion lists!

A 51-year old WWE wrestler makes a final comeback this weekend!

As we covered in a recent story, former WWE wrestling superstar-turned-Hollywood star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was as a primary investor and owner in 2023’s reincarnation of the XFL.  The spring football league lost a reported $60 million last season.  Over the winter, the XFL merged with the USFL to return as this spring’s UFL.

Fortunately for Dwayne Johnson and a few others, last weekend’s first games in the new UFL showed some improvement in the television ratings.  Time will tell, though.

Whether “The Rock” wanted to regain some of his former wealth (his net worth was estimated at a whopping $800 million a few years ago), Johnson agreed to make another (and, perhaps, final) return into professional wrestling’s squared circle this weekend.

On Saturday and Sunday in Philadelphia at WrestleMania 40 (yes, we ARE that old), the wrestling legend will become part of a tag-team event featuring his real-life distant Samoan cousin, Roman Reigns.

They will take on the duo of Cody Rhodes (son of former wrestler, Dusty Rhodes) and his tag partner Seth Rollins in Saturday night’s top match.

The man known as “The Rock” has trained for several months getting ready for this return wrestling match – and his next movie, too.  Dwayne Johnson’s immense box-office popularity has been a direct result of his extraordinary professional wrestling persona.

Though he has remained in terrific shape, the 51-year old Johnson said that getting into wrestling shape once again is not the same thing.  It hasn’t been easy.

“Suplexes, a launch off the top rope, a catch, like bodies hitting bodies,” said “The Rock”.  “It’s things like that that you have to do and have to prepare for. And you’re getting bruised up, you’re hitting the ropes. It comes back fairly quickly … like riding a bike.”

On Saturday night within an outdoor wrestling ring in the middle of the NFL Philadelphia Eagles football stadium, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will have the audience in attendance and those watching on Pay-per-View in the palm of his hands.

One night later on Sunday, Johnson will be (perhaps?) on the sidelines as his Saturday night partner (and three-year WWE Champion) Roman Reigns puts his title on the line against recent fan favorite Cody Rhodes.

As we’re dusting off this weekend’s oldies-but-goodies show, would it surprise anyone if Sunday night’s main event somehow included a surprise return of The Rock’s 59-year old former foe, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin?

If those two senior citizens start going at it like they did a few decades ago, the local paramedics should stay alert Sunday night in Philly.

83-year old golf announcer Verne Lundquist takes his final bow at The Masters next week

Back in 1986, a 46-year old Jack Nicklaus rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole at Augusta National Golf Club to provide a one-stroke margin of victory in The Masters.   CBS Television’s Verne Lundquist’s famous “Yes, Sir!” call as the golf ball dropped into the cup is replayed every year and still evokes a joyful memory of one of the most thrilling golf comebacks in history.

In addition to golf, the understated (as announcers go) Verne Lundquist was the primary play-by-play voice for the CBS Saturday afternoon SEC football games for more than two decades.  His enthusiasm on the air could make even the most boring games fun to watch.

Merton Laverne Lundquist (who became known as Verne Lundquist at the behest of a local radio station program director) has worked behind the microphone for decades.  Lundquist handled hundreds of NFL and college football games, the Winter Olympics, and was a mainstay for the Dallas Cowboys radio network from 1970-1984.

A long-time television sports anchor at Dallas television station WFAA, Verne Lundquist also hosted a very popular local version of the syndicated television show “Bowling for Dollars”.  Though he doesn’t like to remember those days, others do!

“Honest to God, maybe once a week, I’ll be in a public place like a grocery store or an airport, someone from Dallas will say, ‘I grew up watching you on Bowling For Dollars’”, chuckled Lundquist.

Now 83 years of age, Verne Lundquist will be signing off for the final time next week after 40 years of covering The Masters golf tournament for CBS.  Before the tournament begins on Thursday, April 11, he wants to chat with a couple of special people before the telecasts begin.

“I want to see Tiger (Woods) at the end of the Champions Dinner on Tuesday night. I just want to say goodbye to him and thank him. Same with Jack (Nicklaus),” said Lundquist.  “Those two guys have had a terrific impact on my professional career and I’m in deep gratitude to them both.”

Long-time CBS Masters host Jim Nantz recently said that Verne Lundquist’s timely calls of several historic golf shots at golf’s first major championship of the year will live for decades to come.

“What I’m saying here is that Verne’s going to always have a home with Augusta. He’s going to be a part of Augusta forever,”

Will Verne Lundquist soon be gone from the CBS and The Masters coverage team?  Yes, sir!

Let’s just hope that television broadcasting legend Verne Lundquist does not receive the same type of “Goodbye!” surprise as former PGA Championship winner Hal Sutton did recently.  Thanks for the memories, Verne!