Editor’s note: Richard Peña is on vacation. This column first appeared on April 9, 2004.
On a Monday morning in early January of 1979, a former colleague, Don Chamberlin, and I played a round of golf at one of the North County courses.
Little did we know at the time, but this was the early foundation of the Retired Educator’s Golf Association, a unit that was to be known in later years simply as REGA.
At that time, Chamberlin and I had recently retired from San Diego City Schools. We thought it would be a fitting thing to play golf on a day when all our colleagues, administrators, principals and teachers were starting in on another week of school — sort of a “Nya-nya! Look at us,” type of thing.
We, of course, did not have exclusive rights to retiring. Before too long, one fellow and then another and another caught the retirement fever. And before long we had enough members to qualify for a tournament each week.
Our membership at its peak stood at 16 with others in the wings ready to hop in when there was an opening. REGA became a pleasant group of individuals who not only enjoyed a semi-weekly game of golf but also each other’s company whether it be playing or eating breakfast or lunch.
In a few days, the group will be celebrating its annual brunch. For about the 20th time, members past and present, along with spouses or designated drivers will meet at the Admiral Baker Golf Course. And there, amid a champagne brunch, we will trade reminiscences, tell lies, recall past golf-course incidents and bring each other up-to-date on recent maladies, aches and pains.
In reality, however, it is a time when the group gets together with no worries as to how they are going to hit the ball.
I was speaking with Harry Miller, who recently had to retire from the group. He was the chairman of REGA for some 20 years and was the person responsible for the golf course and then the game to be played.
In the early days, the group moved from course to course — actually all over the county. For the past 12 years or so, the group has played at the Bonita Golf Club, having a standing starting time each Monday at 9 a.m.
Miller and I spoke of many of our past members, lamenting the passing of many of them and the infirmities that can befall the rest of us.
Miller, it must be noted, was responsible for the Monday group. On Fridays the game was at the Mission Trails Golf Course, in the Mission Valley area. This game was under the guidance of the late Don Irwin.
Both Irwin and Miller were diabolical in the type of game they devised.
One need not have a PhD to understand them, but it helped. The games had so many gimmicks that if one did not read the small print at the bottom of the game sheet he would find himself an outcast, something akin to being the poor brother-in-law.
On the annual brunches, Miller and Irwin berated the group by recapping with their versions the year. It must be noted that, since spouses were present, this latter activity was rather low-key.
The mantle of power has been passed on to long time members Don Jackson on Monday and George Forbes on Fridays with Jerry Mitchell being the brunch chairman. It is Jackson and Forbes who make up the games and, though they have dropped most of the gimmicks, the interest is still there.
REGA’s numbers, it is true, have dwindled through the years because of attrition and other factors.
The enthusiasm, nevertheless, is still there. Though strongly resembling the denizens from some geriatric ward, players take their places at the first tee as if they are teeing up at the Masters. The spirit is present even though something is missing in the execution. The player, in driving on the first tee, used to say, “How did you like that one?”
Nowadays he is more likely to ask, “Where it go?”
REGA, you might understand, is only one of a number of such men’s groups who play the South Bay courses each week. It is not known whether it is the love of the game, the hankering for male company, or simply the idea of continuing to do something that they have done for years that keeps them coming out.
That is not important.
What is important is the fact that they are still playing. The geriatric ward is not nearly as pleasant.