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Senior golf? Nebraska college team has 61-year-old freshman

From FOX Sports - April 11, 2018

BELLEVUE, Neb. (AP)Don Byers didnt know he was auditioning for a spot on the Bellevue University golf team when coach Rob Brown joined his group as a guest at his club last August.

Byers was booming drives close to 300 yards, making his putts and under par after nine holes.

Brown asked Byers if he had any eligibility left. Byers thought it was a joke.

Hes a 61-year-old grandfather, after all.

We laughed about it and moved on, Byers said, but afterward he said he was serious. I gave him my number and said if you are, give me a call. Thats the last I thought Id hear about it.

Brown called Byers a couple weeks later and said the offer stood. Now Byers is a freshman on the Bruins seven-man roster.

A true graybeard, hes the oldest NAIA athlete since 61-year-old Alan Moore kicked an extra point for the football team at Faulkner University of Alabama in 2011. NAIA spokesman Chad Waller said he knows of no older competitors in any sport, past or present. The NCAA doesnt keep age records. At the junior college level, Ken Mink appeared in three basketball games at age 73 for Roane State in Tennessee in 2008.

The decision to go back to school and play golf wasnt all that hard for Byers, who logged about 170 rounds last year. His job with the insurance agency he bought in the 1980s gives him flexibility. He also sees value in pursuing a college degree.

Byers mixes easily with his teammates, all but one of whom is from Latin America. He said being old enough to be their grandfather hasnt necessarily given him privilege.

Being a freshman, he said, I have to get their bags out of the van now and then. But we have a lot fun and they taught me a lot, and Ive felt Ive brought a little to the table, too, keeping it kind of light.

Sophomore Lautaro Marzilio said it was weird at first to have a teammate so much older.

But after meeting Don, hes a great person and hes like one of us, Marzilio said.He understands us. We are kind of different eras, but we share the same thing.

Byers first go-round as a student-athlete was more than 40 years ago at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He was a pitcher on the baseball team and blew out his arm before what would have been his first season. He stayed at UNO two years, leaving in 1977 to enter the insurance business. He and his wife, Deb, have three children and four grandchildren.

Hes a freshman in eligibility under NAIA rules because he never appeared in a game for UNO. Bellevue allowed him to transfer most of the credits he earned at UNO, making him a junior academically.

Byers works mornings at his office and attends classes on campus three days a week. Hes taking courses in English, history and communications. He hasnt declared a major.

Byers wife of 38 years said her initial reaction when Don told her Brown was recruiting him was a sarcastic, Yeah, right. When she realized it was no joke, Deb pledged support.

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