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CLINE: Lilburn man keeps pushing ahead

Todd Cline

Todd Cline

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Don Magee

Chances are if you play golf at Country Club of Gwinnett in Snellville or at Northwood Country Club in Lawrenceville, you've caught Don Magee in the act. A marshal at the two courses, Magee has been known to sneak a few in during work hours.

The Lilburn resident's addiction? Push-ups. Lots of them.

Magee, who turns 79 in September, said he averages more than 1,000 push-ups a day. He does other workouts to stay fit, but push-ups are his passion and he literally does them morning, noon and night. So if it's slow at either of the golf courses where he works, the former Illinois educator doesn't waste the free time, dropping down to give himself 20, and usually many more.

"I've already got 1,200 push-ups in today," Magee said at 9 a.m. during a recent phone conversation. "My record is 3,220. I did it on Good Friday. My goal is to do 4,000 in one day before I'm 80."

On his 70th birthday, Magee first reached the 2,000 push-up milestone for one day. Spurred on by guys at the gym, who teased him by telling him that former University of Georgia star Hershel Walker did more, Magee cranked out his person record (2,010 to be 10 ahead of Hershel) and retorted: "I don't think Hershel did 2,000 on his 70th birthday." That led to 3,010 push-ups on Magee's 74th birthday, which was his record until he broke it again this year.

Around the golf course, Magee's regimen is always a topic of conversation. "I have a lot of people ask: Did you get your quota today," Magee said. But if you really want to get him talking, ask him about the source of his push-up obsession.

"It's my wife, Florence. I call her my hero," Magee said.

Eighteen years ago, Florence Magee was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and "She said: 'I'm going to the gym to whip this,'" Magee said.

While his wife battled her arthritis by working out with weights and participating in spin classes, Magee showed his support by going with her. "So I got started because of her," he said.

Magee said he started out doing 25 push-ups at a time. "Then I added more to that and then added more to that." Lest you think he's got a one-track mind, Magee also enjoys other physical activities like gardening and dancing, but he always comes back to the push-ups, even doing them in between sets of his circuit training at the gym.

He's found that he tires more quickly when doing sets of 500 at a time, so he now shortens his sets to 200, repeating that five times on an average day. How obsessed is he with getting his daily push-ups in? On a recent flight delay in New York, he knocked out 1,000 while waiting in the concourse.

"I can take it anywhere I go," Magee said of his favorite form of exercise.

After playing football at Illinois State University, Magee got into education and became superintendant of schools in Eureka, Ill. Twenty-one years ago he retired and moved with his wife to Georgia to be near their children and grandchildren, settling in Gwinnett. Not too long after that he became a golf marshal, a job that keeps him outdoors and around other people.

He enjoys interacting with folks, and hopes his push-up tales inspire others, especially seniors, to exercise.

"Just because we're old doesn't mean we can't do things. It just means we might have to do them a little slower," Magee said. "It makes me feel good if I'm helping somebody else. I'm definitely helping myself."

Email Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.