HOLLAND – Vern Hoeksema started golfing at age 10.
He was hooked and it became a lifelong passion for the Holland native.
That passion gave Hoeksema one of the greatest moments of his career a stunning 77 years later.
Hoeksema, who graduated from Holland High School in 1954, won the Michigan Senior Olympics in the 85-89 age group in golf last year, qualified for the U.S. Senior Olympics and won the bronze medal in golf in Pittsburgh.
“I enjoyed the golf competition and parade of athletes and the Pirates baseball game. I got to learn a lot about Pittsburgh’s history, which was fun,” Hoeksema said. “It really started last year when I went to the Michigan Senior Olympics and played golf on a whim. I found out that I qualified for the nationals, which was this year. Since I have never been to one of those, I thought about going. But I made a plan when my daughter wanted to go and would drive. I am glad I went. It was a really neat experience.
“It was a great adventure for me.”
Thirteen golfers qualified for the national event in the age group.
“It is something that you enjoy and never expect that you were doing to do. I didn’t realize how big of an event it was. There were more than 10,000 in the Senior Olympics. I have had a fair degrees of success over my lifetime with holes in one and club championships. Just to participate was great, but to win a medal was my crowning achievement in golf,” he said.
It is a career that has spanned nearly seven decades.
“I started caddying at 10 years of age when the Holland American Legion took over the Holland Golf Course,” he said. “I got hooked and have been playing ever since.”
At age 87, it is a way for Hoeksema to keep active but also have some competition.
“The competitive juices still flow and you meet a lot of great people. I have also been blessed with good health,” he said. “It is fun and gives me a chance for exercise and keep myself busy. As long as this body will do it, I will do it.”
This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: Holland’s Vern Hoeksema wins Michigan Senior Olympics, claims bronze