A 61-year-old grandfather goes to his local golf course for a quick round, gets spotted by a college coach and plays his way onto a university team.
No, this is not the plot of a “Happy Gilmore” reboot. This is the story of how Don Byers ended up on the golf team at Bellevue University in Nebraska.
The Bruins are an NAIA member, not NCAA, and neither the governing body nor the North Star Athletic Association — the conference Bellevue plays in — have age restrictions on college athletes.
So when Bruins coach Rob Brown saw Byers play at Champions Run in Omaha he cared more about Byers’ one handicap than his age.
“I just see a great golfer and an outstanding athlete,” Brown said per a school release. “He knows the game, has incredible hitting power, and shows finesse on the greens. We’re fortunate to have recruited him.”
Byers will officially join the Bruins as a freshman for the spring semester. Unofficially, he becomes one of the oldest college athletes on record. NCAA Division III Faulkner University had a 61-year-old kicker on its football team in 2011, Geneva College had a 43-year-old basketball player on its men’s team in 2013 and Pepperdine University once had a 49-year-old swimmer, so there is some precedent here.
Even still, a 61-year-old college athlete is a strange thing to see. Byers, who runs his own insurance agency, will look to get a bachelor’s degree while on campus and seems to be embracing the adjustment.
“Everyone at Bellevue has been great and really supportive of me as a non-traditional student-athlete.” Byers said in the release. “My teammates have gone out of their way to make me feel welcome and that has been greatly appreciated.”
Bellevue’s men’s golf team also features students from Mexico, Argentina and Colombia, so the school seems well-equipped for Brown’s ability to recruit outside the box.
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