By Beth Seaman
On Tuesday afternoon, the Fairway Grill is buzzing with activity. The senior group who plays at the Ole Miss Golf Course every week has just finished their tournament. Groups of retirees fill almost all the tables in the dining area, eating lunch or cooling off before they head home. Al Hughes, Robert Montgomery, and I sit down at the only available table in the room and they talk about thegroup’s humble beginnings.
Oxford is consistently rated one of the top cities in which to retire, and people have truly taken notice. The retirement community in Oxford has grown significantly in the last ten years because of the art, cultures, and the plethora of activities offered in the city. It helps, too, that Mississippi is number one the 2011 list of tax-friendly states for retirees according to Kiplinger Magazine.
Hughes and Montgomery wanted to start this senior group so they and other retirees in the area could meet other one another and play golf. From the start, they were told that several others had attempted to start similar groups but had been unsuccessful. Hughes and Montgomery didn’t give up. They believed that if done right, a senior group could be created and thrive. They had 12 players for their first Tuesday tournament, including then Ole Miss Chancellor, Robert Khayat. Since that first Tuesday, and mainly through word of mouth, the group has grown to over 90 members. “On any given Tuesday here at the golf course, we have 38-40 players,” Hughes tells me. He says health issues account for most absences. “At our age, that’s just the way it is.”
There is a one-time $10 fee to join the group. Each week, players buy in $5 for regular play or $6 to add the hole in one contest. “A guy won the hole in ole contest a couple of months ago,” Montgomery says, “and took home $761.” The top three places are paid out every week and there is plenty of opportunity to create a nice return on investment. “First place today got $74,” Montgomery tells me. Second and third place took home $44 and $30 respectively, which is no small prize considering the price of entry.
Hughes and Montgomery tell me their goal now is to grow the group while promoting the gentleman’s game of golf. They play by the rules of the game as they’re written, and respect the course and other players. Otherwise, the group is very laid back and friendly. Montgomery tells me it’s nice to have the opportunity to meet other retired golfers. It doesn’t hurt either, he informs me, that if he wakes up in the mood to play golf on Wednesday through Monday, he’s got the phone numbers of 92 other retirees he can call to put a game together.