For love of the game

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 20, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / October 20, 1999

LAPLACE – She remembers when golf courses had dirt “greens.” She hasplayed with the great Patty Berg and taken shots in the presence of the legendary Mildred “Babe” Didrickson Zaharias. And she still owns one ofthe first wedges, acquired soon after the late Gene Sarazen invented the club.

For Dutch Peattie of LaPlace, golf is an obsession that dates back to the 1940s. It is a love that she has passed down to her children, hergrandchildren and her great-grandchildren. And over 50 years after pickingup her first club, Peattie, at 88 years old, is still playing championship golf, combining with Margy Kelly of Houma to win the Ladies Invitational at Riverlands earlier this month.

Peattie was a late starter to the game. Growing up around Mobile, Ala., sheplayed baseball and played on a women’s team that would challenge anyone, men or women, and would usually emerge victorious. At the time,she lived along a golf course and the girls on the team kept begging her to try the sport. Peattie refused, calling it a crazy game.But Peattie finally caved in and took her husband’s clubs out to the course.

She teed the ball up and swung – and sent the first shot of her life 175 yards straight down the middle. The local pro, who had been watching,went up to her and asked who had taught her golf. She replied that it wasthe first time she had ever hit a golf ball.

Peattie’s teammates kept telling her how good she was at the sport but she kept refusing to take it up. Finally, she began to realize that she mightbe interested in it. Peattie put a paper bag in her back yard and pitchedtoward it, learning feel and how hard to hit a shot. Less than six monthslater, she was averaging a 39 for nine holes.

Peattie still recalls those early days when the players would play “stymie” in which the other players would try to place their balls between your shot and the hole. Using a 5-iron, you would hit down on theball, making it hop over your opponent’s ball.

The greens at the time were made of dirt. Players would use a “podo” ballwhich could be purchased at Walgreens for 25 cents and had rubber insides. With the coming of World War II, however, rubber was in shortsupply so the ball was discontinued. Peattie also owned another raritythese days – a 2-wood. She also purchased one of the first wedges to comeout.

“That ball would go a country mile,” Peattie recalls of the podo. “It wasreally interesting back then.”Berg, one of the early greats on the ladies’ professional tour, would come to the area to work with the local pro, Andy Mortimer, before heading out on the tour every season. Berg would invite Peattie to watch her practiceand the two played in an exhibition against a couple of men.

“Patty was a lot of fun,” Peattie said. “That was my first experience ofgetting to play with a good pro.”During the war, Peattie and her husband, Murrell, moved to Pascagoula, Miss. They left in 1945 and came back in 1950.The touring pros went through Gulfport in those days and Peattie got to see many of the greats of the time play. Two of the best competitors ofthe time were Berg and Zaharias. After playing, the two would put on anexhibition. During the exhibition, Peattie was called out of the gallery tohit a few shots.

“Thank the Lord, I hit the prettiest 6-iron,” Peattie said, recalling how nervous she was. “I had a lot of fun with the pros. Those were the good olddays.”Peattie would later go to New Orleans to follow Zaharias in her final match. Zaharias would pass away later that year of cancer.While in Pascagoula, Peattie won the club championship at Pascagoula Country Club for 30 years. In 1955, she not only won the clubchampionship but also finished runner-up in the consolations at the Mississippi state championships. She later went to Mobile Country Cluband won the city championships. She also won a handicap tournament afterbeing 11 strokes down. Friends wanted her to join the fledgling ladies’tour but with three children, Peattie could never see leaving them to play.

Peattie’s strong point was her short game, so much so that she came be known as “up and down Peattie”. Her best shot was a cutter thatconsistently got her close to the pin.

“If you don’t have a short game, you can drive all you want, but you still have to get up and down,” Peattie said.

Peattie gave up the game in 1975 when her husband got sick. He passedaway in 1976 and Peattie moved back to Mobile. Three years later, shemoved to LaPlace to be with her daughter, Joyce.

Joyce and her husband, Jack Coleman, belonged to Riverlands Country Club and got her on as a member. In Peattie’s first time back on the course, sheshot a 50. While she could not hit them as long as she used to, her shotsnearly always found the fairway.

“I’m always down the middle,” Peattie said. “I’m never in any trouble. I’mcoming back now. I still have that hope of getting back to where I wasbefore I quit.”Despite the time off, Peattie didn’t lose much in her swing. She and herdaughter attended a clinic at Ormond Country Club and Peattie was asked to swing a 7-iron. She was swinging the club when she noticed the rest ofthe ladies at the clinic watching her. When she asked what was going on,the other ladies had said the pro conducting the clinic had told them to watch her swing.

Peattie’s game was on again earlier this month as she teamed with Kelly at the Riverlands Lady Invitational. It was the first time the two hadplayed together and despite Peattie having not played since May, the two took the title with a low gross score of 76.

“I was sinking putts,” Peattie said. “My putting came back to me. That hadbeen my ruination – three putting.”Peattie practices everyday in her backyard, either chipping or hitting balls into a net. She has passed down her love of the game to her children,grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Peattie said her grandson, TeddyAlvis, a double amputee, drives the ball as far as anybody out there and was the most valuable player in his category and the best sportsman at a recent national tournament. Her great-grandson, Andrew Coleman, won theColin Cup and the City Championships on the Compaq Classic/NOGA Tour.

Jason Coleman, 11-years-old, is up-and-coming and Jesse Coleman, 6- years-old, is starting to practice. Peattie bought each their first set ofclubs and is scheduled to play with Andrew and Jason in upcoming tournaments.

“He used to ask me about what I was doing,” Peattie said about Andrew.

“Now I ask him.”Peattie said she has no plans to give up the sport anytime soon and credits her faith in God as to the reason why she has been able to play so long.

“Without my faith in God, I couldn’t even lift my club much less swing one,” Peattie said. “It’s that faith that has kept me and that gets methrough.

“Golf is a clean sport. It’s a game you can play to 100 if you can swing thegolf club. I don’t feel any different than when I used to. As long as I know Ican go out there and swing, I’m going to go out there and try. You are onlyas old as you think you are and I never think of myself as old.”

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