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  • This is just a story of a man and his golf

  • This isn't about someone who hits 350-yard drives, or asks about course records because he knows he can beat them, or has more holes-in-one than a dunes course has bunkers.
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  • This isn't about someone who hits 350-yard drives, or asks about course records because he knows he can beat them, or has more holes-in-one than a dunes course has bunkers.
    This is about Mr. Everyman Golfer.
    In most ways, Erik Carlson is like you and me. He's smitten by golf but rarely is smitten back. For all the time and money, sweat and emotion he's invested, infrequent are the times he is rewarded with a round at or near peak ability. That's why golf is recognized as a four-letter word, a good walk spoiled. You look at it wryly, shake your head at its antics and dismiss it because, well, that's just golf being golf.
    "I always wished I could have played better," says Carlson, a Talent resident who plays twice a week at Stewart Meadows and marshals there once a week.
    He figured about five years ago, or 45 years after he took up the game, that if he played more, he'd get better.
    "It hasn't worked out that way," Carlson chuckles. "As you get older, you get worse."
    He marvels at pros who hit 8-irons upwards of 180 yards and is a big proponent of, if you want to get better, if you want to do it right, take lessons.
    This despite his own, lone brush with a lesson.
    It was shortly after 1962, when he moved his retail camera and photo finishing business from his hometown of Klamath Falls to Medford. He joined Rogue Valley Country Club for a whopping $250 and monthly dues of $19.
    He and a friend, Bob Stevens, were in the midst of a round that saw Carlson struggling. Stevens asked if he'd ever considered taking a lesson, to which Carlson replied he'd just had one days earlier.
    "So," recalls Carlson, "Bob puts his hands on his hips and said, 'If I were you, I'd go right back in there and kill the son of a b——.'"
    Yet, Carlson plays on.
    "Not because I'm good," he says, but because it keeps him active, he loves the camaraderie and surroundings and each day fosters hope for one of those infrequent great rounds.
    Mr. Everyman Golfer, you and me.
    There is uniqueness in each of us, and as it relates to golf, Carlson does belong to a club with few members: He's 91, has shot his age more than a few times, plays year-round no matter the weather — "If the course is open, we play," he says — and always walks.
    When he's not spending time with his wife of 65 years, Darlene, or tending to their yard and gardens, his mind might do a power fade to golf.
    Most of the fellas in his regular group are in their 80s, "So that makes me the old guy," says Carlson.
    "To watch Erik and his friends play golf," says Stewart Meadows head pro Dan Coughlin, "it shows me this game truly is a game of a lifetime."
    It wasn't always that way.
    Carlson's first exposure to golf was as a kid in Klamath Falls. He was born eight years before the start of the Great Depression. Money was scarce, but the boy earned modest expenses by delivering newspapers and hitchhiking to Reames Country Club to caddie for 50 cents a bag.
    "No one could ever afford golf when I was young," says Carlson. "That was more of a doctors and lawyers type of sport."
    He dabbled in city and church league basketball before being drafted into the Army. He was in active duty in Europe when World War II ended, then returned home to start a photo business partnership with his brother-in-law.
    The golf bug bit once he moved to Medford. That wound is still fresh.
    Coughlin rates Carlson among the best of Stewart Meadows' 14 marshals. He keeps play moving, repairs divots on tee boxes and in fairways, fixes ball marks on greens, keeps carts at the ready.
    He works Wednesdays when a popular women's league is in action and is ever courteous.
    "Sometimes the ladies don't like me being around when they're trying to hit," he says. "It makes them nervous, so I try to stay a little away."
    It's the only time in golf when staying away seems prudent. Otherwise, he's all in.
    "I don't know what I'd be doing if I wasn't playing golf," says Carlson. "I'd probably be sitting here watching TV all day, and I wouldn't care for that at all. I've got to be doing something."
    For all the wrong reasons and all the right reasons, that thing is golf.
    As it is for you and me.
    Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com
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