It’s been said that one ages slowly over time, then all at once. You go to bed fine one night and wake up the next morning unable to waddle to the bathroom without your joints sounding like you’re stepping on bubble wrap.

After this past week with the U.S. Women’s Open, I sense I am not alone in this long slow slog of recovery. The USGA’s latest running of the Women’s Open at Pine Needles Lodge was its fourth at the Southern Pines course but its eighth Moore County major since 1999. You don’t have to work too hard to find folks who have a golf shirt in their closets from each of those events, either as a volunteer or attendee.

It may seem like yesterday since we celebrated Payne Stewart sinking that putt on 18, but our bodies tell us it is anything but yesterday.

An event like the Open or Women’s Open has a way of bringing together — intensively over a compacted period of time — people you might normally socialize or work with just occasionally. It’s like homecoming week. But with COVID isolation still a near-term memory — a few folks out at Pine Needles were still wearing face masks — it was insightful seeing friends, colleagues and associates from near and far again.

The insight: We done got old — or older, anyway.

This condition is always better than the alternative, but it comes with tradeoffs that we all couldn’t help but trade off with each other last week. Save for the annual Election Day which is usually a double shift, it has been eight years since I’ve been in a situation that entails 16-hour days and the constant flow of adrenaline.

The back-to-back Open and Women’s Open at Pinehurst in 2014 was a push for even the hardiest of us. Counting the advance prep time for many of us, four weeks of long days, unhealthy take-out food, little sleep and frequent bursts of frenetic chaos felt a lot like, well, college.

There’s a reason one can live that way in college, and it’s called “youth.” A body can be a very forgiving thing in one’s 20s. By the 30s, the body is compliant, so long as you “start taking care of yourself,” by which I mean the occasional gym routine and more salads for lunch. By the 40s, you’re surrendering into loose-fit jeans, untucked shirts and “athleisure” wear that is more forgiving than a kind nun. By our 50s — and above — our bodies are in full revolt to long days, deadline pressures, crowds, heat and humidity lasting longer than 47 seconds and early-morning car pool appointments.

And so we dig deep, asking shriveled adrenaline production centers to kickstart a new supply “one more time” to get us through. And sure enough, the generator jumps to life, you’re up early, running running running, eating eating eating, working working working — and at the end of it you crash.

By Monday this past week, as the Lexus courtesy cars pulled away from Southern Pines, the struggle bus pulled in and I climbed on. It was a crowded bus. I saw a lot of familiar faces, most with eyes closed and heads tilted back.

Rest up, my weary friends. The turnaround is short. The USGA is pulling in with its big circus again in 2024 at Pinehurst. And if you’re looking out even further, 2029 will be another back-to-back Open and Women’s Open at Pinehurst. Then there’s the Open in 2035, 2041 and 2047. I will be 88 in 2047.

Surely, even then the U.S. Open will once again be one for the ages — and the aged.

Contact editor John Nagy at (910) 693-2507 or john@thepilot.com.

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(1) comment

Peyton Cook

Yes, working. in either a Men’s or women Open Tournament can be hard on the constitution. I had the pleasure to work in two men’s (1999 and 2005) and one women’s (not the past one). In each one was working a hole.It was hard because we were always on our feet. The hardest part was controlling the spectators. I was in my sixty’s all three times. Needless to say I did not work the back-to-back 2014 Opens. Was was a spectator watching from the Green of the 13th hole so I could easily get to Putter Boy tent for refreshments and toilet.

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