Duluth seniors take national Wii golf title

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

DULUTH -- Dolly Fyffe practiced her swing a couple of times, taking note of wind speed and direction, along with the power she was putting behind her club, before locking in her angle of approach and driving her golf ball into the air.

"Uh-oh," the 78-year-old said, following the ball as it soared over the course. But after seeing the ball land, the shot wasn't as far off as she thought.

"That's just in the rough," Fyffe said before passing the Wii controller on to Jen DeReus, who took her turn swinging the slender white controller from the comfort of her wheelchair.

Fyffe and DeReus, 84, are the female contingent of the four-person senior golf team that recently brought home the 2010 National Senior League Summer Open Wii Golf Tournament championship. The foursome, which includes Harry Sanger and Bill Taylor, are residents of the retirement community Parc at Duluth and took up Wii golf, playing the sport on the video game console hooked up to a large screen in their activity room, in just the past year.

While Wii golf is the only kind Fyffe plays these days, she still has her real clubs in her apartment.

"You feel like you're out on the golf course when you're here, but it's a lot easier," she said. "You still have to judge distance and wind speed and clubs and everything."

But there are some distinct advantages to playing Wii golf.

"You don't have to walk to the ball, when you lose them you don't have to go in the water to get them," Taylor joked. "Just sit here and relax. It does the walking for you. It's a good game."

The foursome, which took on the team name The Winners, is a fierce group of competitors, quick to praise a stellar shot while flinging jabs at one another as they navigate nine holes.

"I don't know why you keep doubting me all the time," Sanger said after DeReus took another shot that traveled straight into the cup.

"You tell us wrong sometimes," Fyffe answered.

The eldest of the group at 89, Sanger serves as team captain -- "Self-appointed coach," Fyffe joked -- and fares much better at Wii golf that he did on an actual course.

"I was terrible," he said. "Worse than that. When I quit playing golf I had a 38 handicap and I couldn't shoot it."

Sanger can now brag about his skills -- he shot an impressive 7 under on nine holes in the playoff round of the national competition. The overall team score was a league low of 89.

Bringing home the title, Sanger said, was a big achievement.

"You have no idea how glorious we all felt," he laughed.

Preliminaries leading up to the playoff round required the foursome to play at their residence and submit their scores to the NSL, which compared them to 10 other teams before finalists moved on to playoffs. Those teams then competed at their respective communities and submitted their scores from which the winning team was then determined.

"We led every week, the whole time, the whole four weeks," Fyffe said proudly.

Not only has Wii golf brought out the competitive nature of some of Parc at Duluth's residents, it has brought together residents who might not otherwise socialize with one another -- Sanger and Taylor are just one example. Socialization is one of the reasons corporate wellness director Angela Butler-Hackett recommended the purchase of a Wii gaming system for all four of the Parc facilities in metro Atlanta. A recreation therapist, Butler-Hackett recognized the multiple benefits a Wii could have.

"Knowing that they use the Wii in physical rehab to help with balance and coordination and everything else, I knew it was going to be good," she said. "It's something that's also for socialization, good hand-eye coordination and it's a lot of fun."

Since Parc at Duluth purchased its Wii, the community had to spring for a second because demand to play was so high. Six residents so far have signed up to compete in a senior Wii bowling league that starts Aug. 16.

"It gets their adrenaline going," said Heidi Adams, assistant club director for the retirement community. "They'll walk out of here without their walkers, completely forget their walker halfway down the hall, because their adrenaline has been pumping."