Just a number

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 23, 2008

NATCHEZ — In golf, shooting your age is considered quite a feat.

As it would be odd for a 35-year-old to shoot a 35 on an 18-hole course, the accomplishment is generally achieved by older golfers.

The flip side to that, of course, is that one’s golf game usually tends to slip as they age.

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Not so for Cornelius Lewis and Clayton Foster, however.

Both men shot below their age of 77 in the Natchez Senior Men’s Golf Championship at Duncan Park earlier this month.

Lewis, the winner of the tournament’s 70-plus division, shot a first-day 74 and a second-day 78 on the par 71 course.

Foster placed second with a 75 the first day and an 80 the second.

This isn’t the first time either golfer has done that, either. Both said they’ve shot their age multiple times, both in tournament play and in regular rounds of golf.

“My lowest score was 69, and it was shot this year, at my oldest age,” Foster said. “By me shooting 69, I don’t believe age has a lot to do with playing golf if you have the abilities.”

Those abilities are very important to Foster.

He said good physical condition, coordination, athletic ability, and honor all play a part in having a successful golf game.

Competition, he said, is also key because you have to be able to perform under pressure.

“Normally I play better under pressure,” Foster said. “If you get out there with people that shoot worse scores than we do, then it seems that you kind of fall into their way of playing, whereas if you play with people that are in your playing ability, you tend to play better. You concentrate more on shots, and you just play better golf.”

Lewis said his biggest competition is usually the course.

He said no one really has fun coming out to the course on a Tuesday morning and just knocking around the ball.

“My favorite part about golf is the competitiveness,” Lewis said. “You go out here and try to, I say, beat the golf course. You come out here and you want to try to birdie every hole.”

Lewis began playing golf in the 70s when his wife and kids gave him a set of clubs. He said had it not been for that gift, he might have never stepped foot on the course.

But they did, and he’s been playing ever since.

“It just rubbed off on my, and then I had a problem,” Lewis joked. “Every time my wife looked around, I was gone. She said, ‘You know, you stay on that golf course!’ It’s something I just love.”

Foster has been playing golf since 1962. He said he started at Duncan Park when it was just a nine-hole course.

He said the hardest part of golf, for him, is controlling his emotions, something he said he wishes he could change.

“Anybody that plays golf is going to hit some bad shots,” he said. “And when you hit bad shots — shots you didn’t intend to hit — if you don’t maintain self-control, you’re next shot is probably going to be worse.”

Lewis said he knows about that.

“I broke one of my clubs earlier in the year,” he admitted. “I got emotional about one of my shots that I hit, and I just broke it!”

Lewis broke Clayton’s streak of four wins in the City Championship with his victory this year. Both men play in the seniors tournament as well, and Lewis said he usually plays in the Harvest tournament too.

This was the second time the two had competed against each other.

“I thoroughly enjoy playing with Mr. Cornelius,” Foster said. “He’s a gentleman about the game, and I have great respect for people that respect the game of golf.”