Charlie Waters wins gold at National Senior Games
By Josh Ellerbrock
Published in News on September 7, 2013 10:33 PM
Charlie Waters practices his tee shot on the driving range at the Goldsboro Municipal Golf Course. Waters began playing golf in 1965 and recently brought home a gold medal in golf at the National Senior Games.\n
Charlie Waters' consistent play allowed him to beat out the best senior golfers from across the nation to win the gold medal at the National Senior Games -- the first athlete from Wayne County to take a gold medal at the national level.
During the competition, held in Cleveland in late July, Waters took first in his age group of 65 to 69.
But ask him about his skill level, and he'll downplay his ability.
"I'm no hot stick. I just managed to get a good break," Waters, 68, said. "I'm not that good. It takes luck -- some good luck on your part and bad luck on their part."
Waters started playing golf in his early 20s after joining the Air Force in 1965. He would play softball and golf with other airmen on base. But only recently did he start paying more attention to his golf game, and his handicap of five reflects that.
He currently plays at the Three Eagles Golf Course at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.
Golf has taken Waters all over the world to courses in 40 different countries. He said he usually plays 250 to 300 rounds a year, and he continues doggedly to improve his game.
"I'm playing the best golf in my life," he said. "I've gotten a little bit better in the last six to seven years."
Waters is one of the better senior golfers in Wayne County, placing first in the golfing portion of the Wayne County Senior Games four years in a row and taking top prizes in the Wayne County Men's Amateur Super Senior category.
In February 2012, Waters also won the senior division of the Golf Week National Stableford Championship in Orlando, Fla.
"It's been a pretty good two years," he said.
In late July, Waters traveled to Cleveland for the National Senior Games, which draw thousands of competitors in hundreds of sports. In Waters' golf division, there were about 70 other competitors and Waters said his consistency helped him clinch first place.
For Waters, the win was a surprise considering he had only earned a bronze medal in the state games.
At the national games, Waters and competitors played at the Little Mountain Golf Course -- a tight course flanked by deep bunkers. Throughout the three day competition, Waters stayed out of those bunkers, and that, he said, made all the difference.
Sand traps and water holes slowly eliminated his competition. He saw some golfers try to just hit the ball back to the fairway after getting in a bunker, which added a stroke. Waters avoided the potential hazards by playing it a little safer.
The first day, Waters shot a 75 yet placed fourth overall. His other competitors were four strokes ahead. The second day, Waters pulled out a score of 76. His major competitors, however, played a little worse. That day, Waters pulled ahead by four strokes. On the final day of the tournament, Waters scored another consistent 76, which kept him on top.
Waters said his prior experience in local and regional tournaments helped him gain first place, as he didn't let the excitement of the day affect his playing.
"I was very comfortable out there," he said. "It's just you and the ball. You don't have to depend on any others."
Waters has enjoyed the limelight from his most recent win, but he said it's more enjoyable to watch others from Three Eagles Golf Course take pride in his achievement.
"I got a lot of support, especially from people from Three Eagles," he said. "It's nice to have a group behind you to support you like that."
The next National Senior Games takes place two years from now and Waters plans competing in local tournaments until then.
His overall golfing goals, however, aren't on winning competitions. His goals are on recruiting more people to the game, especially younger people, and teaching them how to swing the club.
"We need more exposure. We need to get more younger golfers. We need to get them out there when they are eight years old," he said.
Waters also has an upcoming gig at the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open at Pinehurst next summer -- he'll volunteer his time selling merchandise in and around the pro shop.
As for the next National Senior Games, Waters isn't sure if he plans on going. First, he has to qualify again for the national games at the state level. And second, he has to pay for the trip, which can be a bit on the expensive side.
And if he does go, Waters will have aged out of the 65-69 bracket.
"It's been fun, but I can't defend my title," he said. "I'll be too old."