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Still hitting the links at 90

Photo by Brian Hansel Melvin Smith is still burning around the links at 90.

Keep your ball in the fairway and do not dawdle if you are playing ahead of Melvin Smith on the golf course.

If you do not, the 90-year-old might be asking to play through.

Smith was born on a farm five miles south of Verndale in 1919, the oldest of 10 kids, and he has been a pacesetter ever since.

"He is the fastest player in our league," golfing pal Baldy Waldahl said flatly.

Smith might have been even quicker around the course if he had taken the game up before he was 57. Smith had never played a round until his granddaughter, Carol Macklanburg, called him up 33 years ago. She was looking for a partner, and more exactly, someone who would qualify as an adult. Grandpa Smith was her man. Carol was a kid who was crazy about golf and what she had was catchy. Smith soon bought a used set of golf clubs from Jack Browne and he was off.

"I had never thought of golfing before but that did it -- I went crazy for golf," Smith said.

Smith became very proud of his golfing granddaughter, who went to state every year in high school and helped her team win the state in 1981.

"I owe it to her," Smith said.

Smith was a bus driver in Wadena for 23 years and when Waldahl was the girls' golf coach Smith would take the team to their meets. While the girls were in competition, Smith and Waldahl were playing their own rounds. Smith was playing five rounds of golf a day at this time. He once played 523 nine-hole rounds in one season.

"That was the year my wife told me 'if you don't take care of the lawn you've got to quit,'" Smith laughed.

Smith has won his share of tournaments over the years and he shot a hole-in-one in 1982. He won the first net title in the Senior Tournament's Group C Division on June 10.

Smith used to shoot rounds from 35-38 but after losing sight in his left eye he saw his handicap zoom from 20 to 38. Smith's love for the game was undiminished by the eye problem and he has worked his handicap down to 35.

Smith hits the course every Tuesday for some practice but he is not much for hitting a bucket of balls on the driving range.

"I want to get at it," Smith grinned. "I just like to hit that ball."