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At 100, Mickey DeMariano still finding the fairway

Two days before he turned 100, Dominic "Mickey" DeMariano loaded his golf clubs in the back of his 2009 Toyota Sienna and drove 5 miles to the Links Golf Club in Hudson. He greeted some of his regular playing partners, "kids" he called them, "only in their 70s."

He set down a large bucket of balls on the practice tee, stretched a bit and took out a driver. "Keep your head down, swing easy," he coached before rocketing a shot more than 200 yards. And lest you think that was a fluke, he did it again. And again. He grabbed a 7-iron and without much effort, sent shot after shot directly at a flag about 140 yards away.

An admirer thumbed through Mickey's golf bag and noticed he didn't have a sand wedge.

"Why would I need a sand wedge?" he asked.

Oh, yeah, not many sand traps are in the middle of the fairway. Accuracy is never an issue for this golfer, a man of uncommon endurance and independence. He has a room full of trophies, even though he didn't take up the game until age 43. He hits hundreds of balls every week and is deadly around the greens. He scores in the low 80s and delights in taking money from men half his age.

Carol Kane, his 75-year-old daughter from Cleveland who looks more like 60, calls him "a freak." They like to go at each other, but she feels blessed that her father can take care of himself at this age. His doctor checked him out the other day and was concerned about only one thing: He could stand to gain a little weight. Otherwise, his blood pressure and cholesterol levels were perfect, his medicine cabinet empty.

"He eats fried foods, whole milk, white bread, sausage, ice cream and candy," she said with some indignation. "He salts everything, even ham!"

"Yes," her dad admitted, "and I'm still here aren't I? Celebrating my 100th."

• • •

Mickey and Teresa DeMariano decided 34 years ago to divide their year between their lifelong home of Angola, N.Y., and Port Richey. They had raised three daughters, and Mickey retired as a master plumber at a hospital in Buffalo.

They kept their house up north and over the years welcomed 10 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren. Every October, they packed for Florida. Every April, they drove back. And in both venues, Mickey cleaned up on the golf course.

In their first days here, Mickey found his way into a new Dunkin' Donuts on U.S. 19, a few blocks from their home. A young redhead named Kathy served him coffee and a jelly doughnut. It marked the beginning of a three-decade friendship. Mickey showed up at 6:30 every morning, a ritual before heading to the golf course. Employees winced over his coffee choice: black with five packs of sugar.

Mickey bonded with the other early-morning regulars who sat around solving the world's problems and flirting with the girls. Many of the men smoked cigarettes before the law put an end to it. Not Mickey. He didn't smoke or drink. He went to St. Michael Catholic Church every Saturday.

Over seven months in 1999, when Mickey lost both his daughter Janet and his wife of 64 years to illness, he found comfort from his friends at the golf course and the doughnut shop. Kathy Smith, now the manager, was quick with the hugs. She listened.

Mickey's other daughters, Carol and Joan, helped him keep his snowbird status. Carol and her husband John drove him to Florida every fall and left him with a freezer full of food. They would return when he was ready to head north. She knew her dad was in good hands with the Dunkin' Donuts just down the road.

"They love him there," she said.

• • •

Mickey turned 100 on Thursday. Before the sun came up, he arrived at the doughnut shop like always. This time his buddies greeted him with cards and golf balls, as if he ever loses one.

Somebody brought in a cake decorated with a golf theme.

"Mickey, we were going to put candles on it but the Port Richey Fire Department wouldn't allow it," teased Glenn Mathewson, a relative newcomer to the group after four years.

John Sugden has been there from the beginning. He's only 82. "John is Mickey's first son," said Chuck Reinhardt, 73, a 15-year coffee klatch veteran.

Mickey sprang to his feet when Kathy Smith arrived. His eyes sparkled. "She's the best," he said. "The best."

Kathy is 52 now. She laughed at the suggestion that she could be Mickey's granddaughter. She recalled a recent TV report from Buffalo that featured Mickey as a golfing phenomenon. "He said his secret to a long life was to stay away from smoking, drinking and women. Well, two out of three isn't bad, eh? He likes the girls. He chases them, he just doesn't catch them."

He's outlived all but four of his 11 siblings and most of his contemporaries. But he doesn't dwell on things he can't change. He hasn't made any plans for his own death, although he smiled when somebody at the party suggested spreading ashes on the golf course might be a good idea.

"I'm not planning to go anywhere anytime soon," he said. "I feel good. I think I have some pretty good years ahead of me still."

In 1990, 15 of every 100,000 Americans reached 100 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2010, that number increased to 23 per 100,000. Experts attribute the rise to better medical care and common-sense decisions regarding smoking and diet.

>>Fast Facts

More reaching 100

In 1990, 15 of every 100,000 Americans reached 100 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2010, that number increased to 23 per 100,000. Experts attribute the rise to better medical care and common-sense decisions regarding smoking and diet.

At 100, Mickey DeMariano still finding the fairway 10/25/13 [Last modified: Friday, October 25, 2013 8:29pm]
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