Gallagher column: For Shoaf, the perfect birthday gift is a round of golf

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 29, 2012

Walt Shoaf celebrated his 88th birthday on Friday. He was asked what his plans were on this special occasion.
Silly question.
“I’m going to play golf,” he said.
Shoaf is known as one of Salisbury’s most famous barbers but he has legendary status at Corbin Hill Golf Club as well.
Hundred degrees outside? Doesn’t matter. He’s going to be out there.
Corbin Hills pro Jay Hill did some figuring and decided that since the course opened, Shoaf has played around 14,000 rounds.
“That’s a lot of golf,” Hill marveled. “He plays regardless of whether it’s raining, snowing, sleeting or hailing. He still plays like he’s in his 40s or 50s.”
Golfing buddy Jerry Allman laughs about the time they played in frigid temperatures.
“His cheeks were as red as his red toboggan,” Allman laughed. “He’s on 16 and walking. He says, ‘Ya know, it’s not too bad out here.’ ”

Shoaf was born during the Roaring Twenties and his drives still roar and soar, according to onlookers.
“He’s just fantastic,” Allman said. “He’s never out of the fairway.”
Shoaf reminds his friend he’s not perfect.
“It’s sort of like Tiger Woods,” he smiled. “You have a great day, then you wish you weren’t out there.”
Don’t let Shoaf fool you, Hill says. He always wants to be out there. Until recently, Shoaf’s routine was 90 holes a week. Now, he plays at least three times a week.
Senior golf, as we like to call it, is a big thing in Rowan County, a place that loves this sport. The GARS, for instance, are always playing. Other groups get together and hit the links.
“You gotta play it to keep your muscles,” Shoaf said. “I think that’s one reason I’ve lived so dadblame long.”

Shoaf is a natural. His very first match is proof of that. Going against his brother-in-law, he won.
“He’d never play me again,” Shoaf reports.
But that win got him instantly hooked.
“John Isenhour made this game famous,” Shoaf added. “He’s what got me on the golf course.”
Once he discovered Corbin Hills, it became his favorite destination. His best score, he says, is a 68 on the par-72 course. Hill talks about him shooting his age once he reached his 80s.
“It’s great, I love it,” Shoaf said of his Corbin Hills experience. “We have a lot of fun out here. You play good out here, you can play anywhere.”

Shoaf stands on the driving range, gazing out into the hot sun. Asked how much longer he was going to play, Shoaf remarks, “Until I can’t walk anymore. Grimacing, he adds, “My legs are killing me. They won’t hold me up.”
Nobody’s buying it, Walt.
“He’s in good health and strong as an ox,” Hill chuckled.
While other groups are teeing it up, Shoaf is out here by himself.
“I can’t get the other guys to play, those durn rascals,” he said.
Then, Shoaf turns his attention to the ball and gives it a whack.
Straight down the fairway. Of course.
Like his birthdays, there seem to be plenty of those perfect drives left in Walt Shoaf.

Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or