HUDSON — Mickey De Mariano started playing golf in 1956 and hasn’t stopped.
Five days a week, his practice regimen at The Links Golf Club includes hitting 200 to 300 balls on the driving range, spending an hour chipping and putting and, twice a week, competes in leagues where he regularly finishes in the top 10. In this year’s club championship, the Buffalo, N.Y., native finished second, shooting a five-under 67 in one round. He consistently scores in the mid-70s to 80s.
Also known as “Mickey D,” De Mariano will turn 100 on Thursday, but has no plans to slow down.
“I look forward to life every day,” De Mariano said. “Swinging the club helps keep me physically and mentally alert, then bending down to pick up the ball helps keep me limber and flexible.”
De Mariano says he patterned his game after golf legend Sam Snead.
“His stroke was smooth and balanced from the start of his backswing to his follow through,” said De Mariano, a retired plumber. “In Buffalo, I followed him in a tournament once and it was thing of beauty just to watch his swing. He also taught me that it’s not how long you hit it. Rather, it’s staying in the fairway that keeps you out of trouble with higher scores. Don’t try to kill it. Just meet the ball squarely and good things will happen.”
De Mariano stays a gentleman on and off the course. His infectious smile and uncanny ability to remember names has allowed him to develop many friendships.
“I never get upset or throw a club after a bad shot,” De Mariano said. “After all, it was my fault. I just put it behind me and worry about the next shot.”
De Mariano relaxes by watching golf tournaments on TV, and one of his favorite young stars is world No. 6 Rory McIlroy. Both golfers are relatively short in size, but can hit the ball a long distance. He believes the only flaw in McIlroy’s game is his poor-shot temperament.
De Mariano credits his longevity on a healthy lifestyle of not smoking or drinking alcohol. Plus, his diet includes several daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
Fellow-golfer Saul Gash, 82, enjoys playing with De Mariano.
“Mickey makes good contact on every stroke,” Gash said. “I can’t remember the last time he hit a ball out of bounds. He sometimes tires on the last few holes, but never loses his smile or his love for the game.”
PGA teaching pro Ray Cisbani also has high praise for the soon-to-be centenarian.
“Mickey is one of the most upbeat individuals that I know,” Cisbani said. “Even though there are days when he may feel a bit off, he never complains. Just give him a golf club and some range balls and he’s ready to go. Many of us marvel at his capability to hit drives over 200 yards and to be able to shoot in the 70s. Mickey will always be known as the guy who not only shoots his age, but as the guy who shoots under his age.”
Correspondent Cliff Gill can be reached at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @ReporterCliff.