His knee was new to him.
His knee was new to him.
Gerald Baird, a 90-year-old resident of Friendship Village of Columbus in the Northland area, had to overcome joint-replacement surgery in January to compete in the golf event for July's 19-sport biennial National Senior Games Association competition in Minneapolis-St. Paul and Bloomington, Minn.
Rehabilitation from the operation kept the native of Findlay -- who won in the 90-and-over Ohio Senior Olympics to qualify for the nationals -- from getting in any serious practice until three weeks before the games began.
"I think I might have overdone it because when I went to Minnesota, for some reason my game was worse than it had been in some time," Baird said recently.
Then there was the format for golfers in his bracket, in which they only played nine holes a day, presumably in deference to their age.
"I'm a slow starter," Baird said. "After nine holes, I'm just barely getting warmed up."
And there was the course, a difficult one with lots of hills, which presented a challenge to someone who only gets to play these days on flat-surfaced central Ohio links.
But Baird, whose daughter, Barbara Rowland of Worthington, accompanied him to Minnesota and went with her father on every round of golf, had certain advantages over his competitors.
At age 46, after a 25-year-career with Marathon Oil, Baird switched to managing a golf course outside Fostoria. He and others bought the course two years later.
Able to retire at 57, Baird moved to Florida.
"I played a lot of golf down there," he said.
So in spite of the artificial knee, the lack of practice, over-preparation, too-brief rounds and the hilly course, Baird brought back the gold.
According to the website of the National Senior Games Association, he won in the 90 to 94 category with an overall score of 138. Felix Lozada of Texas was second with 143 and Florida's Arthur Howland came in third with 147.
"It's pretty exciting," Rowland said. "These people are coming from all over the country. These fellows have all won their state tournaments.
"It's amazing to see these young men out there playing golf."
The National Senior Games Association was initially known as the National Senior Olympic Organization when it was formed in St. Louis in 1985.
It is a nonprofit group "dedicated to promoting healthy and active lifestyles for athletes age 50 and over," the website states.
The NSGA comprises 49 member organizations and two associate member organizations that conduct state or national multisport competitions, which serve as qualifiers for the National Senior Games.
The 19 sports that are now part of the competition include archery, badminton, bowling, horseshoes, racquetball, shuffleboard, swimming and tennis, among others.
Baird said he and some friends in Florida first heard about the National Senior Games around 2007, and he entered the golf competition at the state level, winning four out of five years and getting to the national competition in Palo Alto, Calif., in 2009.
"He's very fit," Rowland said. "He's 90 years old and he looks like he's 70. He walks like he's 70 and acts like he's 70.
"I think it helps his mental health, as well."
Baird's not altogether certain about setting his sights on defending his title at the 2017 games, which will be held in Birmingham, Ala.
"I don't know if I can get my daughter to go," he said.