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Through birdies and bogies, the Farmers stay the course

Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening – and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented. - - Arnold Palmer

Story by T. Michael Stone, photos by Terry N. Massey

When I paid Rich and Dottie Farmer a visit at their Reynolds Lake Oconee home almost eight years ago for a newspaper story, Rich told me he had played an astonishing 324 rounds of golf the previous year, and his wife Dottie had played an equally amazing 285.

I thought for sure they would have cut back a bit since then, but nothing much has changed.

Although Rich has had both of his knees replaced, the husband and wife avid golfers are still each playing approximately 300 rounds every year.

Dottie Farmer and husband, Rich, play 300 rounds of golf a year. Photo by Terry Massey

Dottie, who had lifted a golf ball from tee box to tin cup in a single stroke an amazing 17 times as of that visit, has made four more since, knocking in holes-in-one “No. 20 and No. 21 in 2021,” as Dottie puts it.

In fact, the two aces came on a Tuesday and Thursday of the same week in May, the first at Reynolds’ Preserve course and the second at the Creek course.

Dottie attributes it mostly to luck, but Rich says she can sometimes respond sarcastically when asked how she has managed so many aces.

“If you ask Dottie what’s her secret, she’ll tell you, ‘Well you are supposed to aim at the pin, aren’t you?” Rich said.

Dottie and Rich Farmer enjoy living on Lake Oconee, photo by Terry Massey

Eleven of Dottie’s holes-in-one came at courses in Delaware – where she was the Senior Women’s Champion five times and the Cavalier’s Club Women’s champion 15 times. Eight of her aces came at Reynolds Lake Oconee courses, one in Alabama and one in Virginia. She has averaged an ace every two years over the last 42 years, but made two in the years 1994, 2011, 2014 and 2021. She has also played in 10 USGA national tournaments.

Dottie might have had 23 aces by now if not for the pandemic and accompanying course modifications due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Rich, cups had to be raised out of the greens in an effort to eliminate touch-points which many feared would lead to a spread of the virus. Just after the raised cups were put in place, Dottie’s tee-shot at a hole at the National course rolled up to the cup and would have likely been a hole-in-one, Rich said, but the key word in that sentence is “likely.”

At the time, a debate raged among golfers about whether holes-in-one should count with raised cups in place due to the unknowns involved such as ball speed and shot angle. But Dottie declined to count the apparent ace. To paraphrase senior writer Josh Sens who addressed the issue in a video on A golfer who counts a hole-in-one using raised cups is the same person who hordes toilet paper.

Rich and Dottie Farmer, photo by Terry Massey

Another course modification installed to help golfers get their golf balls out of cups without touching the cup stopped another of Dottie’s aces, but she didn’t count that one either. “The workers [at the golf course] went crazy,” Rich said. “‘You got robbed, you got robbed,’ they said.”

But despite the game’s challenges and its disappointments, Rich and Dottie still love the game and the fellowship it provides.

“We play pretty much every day unless, of course, weather prevents it,” Rich said. But a few years back, Rich’s knees began to give him problems, especially negotiating stairs and walking downhill. His doctors recommended a full knee replacement.

The first of Rich’s knee replacements kept him off the golf course for more than five weeks, but as soon as he felt the other knee begin to squawk, he signed up for another procedure. He paid more attention to the exercises required leading up to the procedure the second time and was able to get back on the links in an astonishing 22 days after the second knee replacement.

That’s a man on a mission.

But Rich and Dottie have been regulars on the Reynolds Lake Oconee golf circuit ever since 2009 when they moved to the area from Middletown, Delaware.

Which brings us to our pop quiz question. What famous politician who appears on television almost daily still lives in Delaware and once played golf with Rich Farmer?

You guessed it: The inimitable POTUS himself, Joe Biden.

We shall leave analysis of Mr. Biden’s golf game and his political skill to ESPN, Fox News and MSNBC, but Rich said the President is a very nice man and a pleasant enough golf partner. How inflation has affected President Biden’s handicap is a matter of much speculation.

Speaking of partnerships, when Rich and Dottie first met, she told him he would have to teach her to play golf or give up the game altogether. Rich chose to offer her some lessons, and it turned out she was an apt pupil.

Rich and Dottie and their impressive trophy case, photo by T. Michael Stone

Rich tells the story of how Dottie joined a men’s group for a round of golf recently, and he asked one of the male players if he minded playing with Dottie on his team.

“Anyone who can make five birdies can be on my team anytime,” his friend replied.

Golf has also led them to some exciting adventures.

Several years ago, Dottie was invited to play in Frank Sinatra’s charity golf tournament in Palm Springs, California.

Rich went along as a caddie to begin with, but he also got to play when another participant bailed out. They wound up playing with celebrity Pat Boone. According to Dottie and Rich, Boone was fun to be around and a great guy.

They haven’t done anything like that in a while, but they do play in fall and spring tournaments in Southern Pines, North Carolina, including the Couples Carousel which will be held Easter Weekend (April 5-9) this year at the Mid Pines course and the Couples Jamboree held in early November each year at the Pine Needles course.

If you visit the websites for the courses, you will find several photos of Rich and Dottie Farmer and a testimonial penned by Rich Farmer of the 2016 champions:

“What a wonderful experience for us. Having visited the resort over the last 40 years, this happened to be our first venture at the Jamboree. To win the event was a dream come true.”

According to Rich, he and Dottie have won the spring tournament eight times and the fall tournament three times, but sadly those glory days might be over.

“We’re getting old,” Dottie said, explaining that the female half of one of the couples they’ve played against played golf at Xavier University is a scratch golfer from the men’s tees.

“Our days of being under par are in the rear-view mirror,” Rich said. And as is the case with a lot of couples who have been married for 50 years, Dottie finished his sentence with “But we’re out there trying.”

So, for Rich and Dottie Farmer, life is still good at Reynolds Lake Oconee with its six golf courses and vibrant community life.

And even though the number of strokes it takes Rich or Dottie to complete 18 holes may have risen slightly, the two will always make the cut in our judgement.

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Published in the 2023 March-April issue of Lakelife magazine. No portions of story or photos may be used without written permission from the publisher.


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