top of page

Golf not four-letter word

It’s easy to put the knock on golf.

Some critics, many of them non-playing wives of golfers, view it as a time-consuming waste of time. Golfers themselves will knock it, saying such things as “You know why it’s called golf? It’s because all the other four-letter words were already taken.”

Larry Stewart

There’s one theory that the word golf is an acronym for “gentlemen only, ladies forbidden.” But researchers claim this is false. A more plausible explanation is that “golf comes from the Scottish word “goulf” or “gowf,” meaning to strike or cuff.

Mark Twain said golf is nothing more than “a good walk spoiled.”

But I beg to differ. There is a social aspect to this activity, and a group made up of mostly Acadians is a good example.

They call themselves the “Over the Hill Golf Group,” or OTHGG for short. There are 14 members, an eclectic group that comes from all walks to life. The OTHGG is an official U.S. Golf Assn. private golf club, set up through a website,

They play Tuesday and Thursday mornings, usually at Santa Anita Golf Course, and they compete for prizes. Members and their spouses gathered at the Arcadia home of Dick Van Kirk Aug. 21 for a party where the awards were handed out.

Bob Wilber, a retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Captain, was presented the “Golfer of the Year” trophy (photos below, Wilber at left) for winning the club championship. The presentation was made by Mike McKay, who along with Van Kirk, founded the club earlier this year.

Its roots, however, began eight years ago.

Van Kirk, former president of the Southern California chapter of Special Olympics, and McKay, are longtime friends, stemming from their days as business colleagues at the accounting firm of Ernst and Young. They had both just retired in 2000 and began playing golf regularly at Santa Anita.

One day while there, McKay bumped into Gene Read, an old classmate from Catholic High in Pomona. Read was playing regularly with Wilber, his brother-in-law. Also playing with them was Rod Johnson, who had worked with Wilber in the sheriff’s department.

They were now a fivesome, and it grew from there, although Johnson has since moved away.

Besides Van Kirk, McKay, Wilber and Read, other current members of the OTHGG are Arne Kalm, George Nicholas, Dave Totten, Loren Sanladerer, Mike Curley, Bill Gleason, Tony Leonard, Loren Miller, Al D’Antonio and yours truly.

Van Kirk, Leonard and Kalm are Caltech alums. Van Kirk was an all-around sports star at Caltech in the late 1950s and a world-class long jumper. Leonard was an aeronautics professor there and now has emeritus status.

Read, Totten, Curley and Kalm have been owners of businesses. Gleason is a banker. Sanladerer, now retired, was a controller for the Southern California Gas Co. D’Antonio was the coach of the 1960 Italian women’s Olympic basketball team.

McKay and Van Kirk, looking for a way to establish a handicap index without paying Santa Anita’s $80 membership fee, searched on Google and found The cost was only $9 per member, and thus OTHGG was created.

The group’s party at the Van Kirk home the other night wasn’t the first. It’s been an annual event for some time now. It was just the first where awards were handed out.Wilber also won the long-drive contest held earlier that day during an “official” tournament in which members were limited to using only four clubs.

I missed out on that tournament but made it to the party, where everyone, including the wives, seemed to have a great time. It showed that there is a lot more to golf that just a good walk spoiled.

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page