Written by Mark Griffin
Monday, 22 September 2008 10:42
Dallas Gardner is either half-mad or very humble.
The 82-year-old Luckey resident can say about his golf game that, “I was never that good, but I was a fair golfer.”
Gardner says he hits the links “about 200 days year,” and not just in the Toledo area.
“I spend four months in Florida, in Lake Placid, about 80 miles south of Orlando,” he says. “It’s a nice area. The county has 105 lakes and 22 golf courses - just enough to keep you busy.”
In almost the very next sentence, Gardner, says he “used to be able to play golf very well,” but he still has his demons. Just like every golfer who ever put on a pair of spikes.
“It’s frustrating for anybody when you can’t make a putt,” Gardner says. “It’s very relaxing and good fellowship, usually. I just enjoy it. It’s a challenge.”
Gardner and his wife of 59 years, Velma, raised seven children, including the oldest, Mike, who has been the boys’ golf coach at Eastwood High School for 37 years. One of their other sons, Randy, is a state representative from the fifth district.
Mike’s youngest son, Chris, is a PGA pro at the Naval Academy Golf Course in Annapolis, Md.
Golf has always been a part of the Gardner household.
“Three of my sons and I have won a lot of scrambles in Northwest Ohio,” Dallas says. “Mike and Gary both played in the state tournament in high school.”
Dallas Gardner oozes pride when he talks about his children and 18 grandchildren.
“The joy I have now is watching our grandkids in sports,” he says. “They’re pretty good athletes. I have a grandson who plays football at Bowling Green and one at Baldwin-Wallace. Another grandson has a scholarship to Toledo to play baseball. We spent a lot of time following kids around, from grade seven through college.”
Gardner refuses to take credit for his own sons’ ability to hit a golf ball. The siblings, he says, learned to do that pretty much on their own.
“I’d be a poor teacher,” Gardner says. “I gave them the opportunity. I’m sure I steered them toward golf, but they were in all kinds of sports. I think my kids have about 50 varsity letters from Eastwood High School.”
Gardner, who also has two great-grandchildren, was the superintendent of schools in Crawford County before becoming the Eastwood Schools superintendent for 12 years. He retired as the superintendent of Wood County Schools after 20 years.
“I always wanted to coach,” Gardner says. “My first year, I did coach. The second year they offered me the superintendent’s job in Crawford County. I took it and I’ve been a superintendent ever since. As long as you had good teachers, which I was always lucky to have, it was always a joy. If you have a supporting community, there’s nothing better.”
Gardner has always been interested in sports.
He played baseball, tennis and basketball at Ashland College (now University) after spending nearly three years as a torpedo man on a Navy destroyer in the Atlantic and Pacific.
“I went to Ashland in 1946,” Gardner says. “I just got out of World War II, and the enrollment more than doubled with all the veterans coming on campus.”
Years later, in 1961, Gardner became a charter member of Tanglewood Golf Course. He is still a member and plays the course – all the time.
“I played there the first week it was open,” Gardner recalls. “It started out as a nine-hole course. The greens change over the years. A lot of things have changed. It’s in pretty nice shape right now - lots of trees.”
Mike Gardner says his father probably golfs five days a week.
“He doesn’t miss too many days if he’s feeling good,” Mike says. “He follows his grandkids and their athletics. Always has.
“Golf is a passion for him, ever since I can remember,” he said. “He’s done other things, but a far as his activity as a participant, that’s his passion. He’s the one who got me started, hitting around the backyard.”
Dallas says that the first day he played from the red tees at Tanglewood three years ago, he shot a hole-in-one on a par 4.
“It’s really not a difficult course at all from the red tees,” he says.
“He has shot his age dozens and dozens of times,” Mike says. “Playing the red tees, people will say, ‘OK,’ but he’s shot his age many times before that. He shot 67 this summer from the red tees. That’s pretty amazing when you’re 82.”
Gardner says he shot the first of his six holes-in-one 35 years ago, at Half Moon Bay Golf Course just north of world famous Pebble Beach. He’s had three aces in Florida and two at Tanglewood.
“I shoot under my age just about all the time,” says Gardner, whose favorite golfer is Phil Mickelson. “Anybody has to putt well to score. On the days you putt well, you score well.”
A few years ago Gardner got to play a round at the St. Andrews course in Scotland. In fact, he has played golf in 47 states and in every province in Canada. Add in Mexico and the Bahamas, too.
“I probably won’t play too much longer,” he says. “Everybody should have some type of activity, and I’ve had a lot of fun with golf.”