BY TERRY BRIDGE, LISTOWEL BANNER SPORTS
LISTOWEL – Harold Keeso taught his son Richard a very important lesson about golf when he was about six years old: swing towards your target.
Time passes by and Keeso, now 87, forgot about that piece of advice until Richard, now with children of his own in their 20s, reminded him.
“He said I told him that way back when he was six or seven when I got him started,” Keeso said. “I was thankful he told me because I get up over the ball and I maybe take a look at the target, but from the time I look at it I get back to the ball, all I’m thinking about is hitting the ball instead of swinging at the target. When I swing at the target, then I get straight shots.”
Keeso, born and raised in Listowel, has been a member at the golf course in Listowel since 1936, but one thing he’d never accomplished in those 76 years happened last week: he hit his first career hole-in-one.
The magical moment happened on Monday, July 9 on Heritage No. 8.
Playing alongside Neil Forman, he grabbed a 7-iron and stepped up to the tee box for the 124-yard shot.
“The pin was in the middle of the green so I figured the 7-iron was the right stick,” Keeso recapped two days later on the patio of the Listowel Golf Club. “I just tried to remember what my son said, look at the target and fire. I must have looked at the target because it went straight and was on the green.”
The shot sailed through the air, but both men lost sight of the ball. Keeso hoped for good fortune, but he set his sights a little low.
“I saw it turning towards the hole and I prayed, I hope it’s going to be near so I could get a birdie,” he said. “We couldn’t find the ball. My partner says it’s in the hole, I said how do you know? He said that’s my ball back there. I knew it wasn’t long, he was at the back corner. I couldn’t believe it.”
Keeso has played at the Listowel facility every season since he was 11, including when he served with the air force in 1944 and the army in ’45 during the Second World War.
Golf is in the family. His older brother Jack – who passed away from a fatal blood clot on a golf course, of all places – was a six handicap at one point, and his sister Marge was about a 12.
“I’ve got it in my blood. When we were in our teens we used to come out here on the summer holidays and play 45 holes, and then spend time on the greens if it was a moonlit night until 11 o’clock,” Keeso said. “It was (long days) but back then you had lots of energy.”
Seven decades since he started he still plays regularly – usually Monday, Wednesday and Friday – but held out hope that someday he would collect that ace.
“I’ve hit the pin a few times, stopped within two or three inches, hit the top of the pole another time and dropped off, but it never goes in the cup,” Keeso said.
He was still able to find time to play regularly even after taking over the family sawmill business, J.H. Keeso & Sons Ltd., from his late brother in 1972.
Keeso’s handicap has steadily decreased from an eight to its current 20, but he shot lower than his age several times this summer already.
Throughout the years Keeso, who also has four daughters Wendy, Heather, Gail and Elizabeth, and seven grandchildren, learned a handful of ways to find on-course success.
“Concentrate and don’t squeeze the club too hard, let the club head work and you get action. You squeeze your hands too much and you don’t get the rhythm of the shot,” Keeso said. “You can’t stay down when you have those bad shots.”
Staying even keel is a key, but after his perfect shot last week he couldn’t help but show a little emotion.
“Frankly I forgot the conversation (with Forman), I was that excited. I couldn’t believe that it finally happened.”