Tom Daniel is 66 years old, but he still remembers the exact score he shot on each hole of the back nine at regionals during his senior year of high school. He birdied the 18th to shoot even par after the turn and 79 overall – the best round of his life.
“You remember the shots that worked out,” he said.
Such is the power of golf, a game with which Daniel could identify growing up 60 miles southwest of Atlanta in a town of 3,000. Football was and always will be king in the South, but he wasn’t big enough for the sport, so he connected with golf.
“The first time I made a long putt, I was hooked,” he said. “I wasn’t a great athlete, but I was passionate.”
Daniel was introduced to the game as a 10-year-old, when he started playing with his friend at a nine-hole course in Hogansville, Ga. He used money earned cutting grass to purchase his first set of clubs in 1964, a Northwestern starter set that included a driver, 3-wood, four irons and a flat putter.
After 40 years working for the Georgia government, Daniel can afford nicer equipment. But now that he’s retired – and spends most of his time playing golf and eating barbecue – it can be challenging finding an available foursome.
“I’m able to play on all the days ending in Y, but I have to be respectful of my friends that are still working when I call them up on a Wednesday,” he said.
Daniel’s social life is built around golf. A USGA member since 1993, he belongs to Heritage Golf Links in Tucker, Ga.
“My wife doesn’t play golf, but she embraces me leaving the house to play,” he said, jokingly.
Daniel gives back to the game by volunteering at championships such as the U.S. Mid-Amateur and donating used equipment to The First Tee of East Lake.
An admirer of Bobby Jones, Daniel loves golf history and is sensitive to the research the USGA is conducting regarding water and grass, noting that Tifton Turf Farms is located less than an hour away from his Atlanta home.
As he gets older, Daniel is more aware of the health problems people experience as they age and recognizes how golf plays an important role in keeping seniors active.
“Golf is the source of my enjoyment; it provides fun and fellowship,” he said.
Jordan Schwartz is the creative and content lead for the USGA Foundation. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.