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      It's Tee Time

      They say you're not getting older, you're getting better.


      Well, I'm just getting older. Ask my back. And other body parts.

      But sometimes, it's true.

      In this case, the Eldon Golf Club --- the oldest golf course in the Lake of the Ozarks area --- is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. Yes, it was founded in 1934 --- in the second year of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration --- and it's getting better all the time.

      "It's an extremely golfer-friendly course," Eldon Club Professional Mike Cummings said. "With our four sets of tees (ranging from 4,761 to 6,373 yards), from the tips it's very challenging.

      "But if you're more of a recreational golfer and just going out and playing with your buddies, you can play the white tees and hit it in a lot of different places and still score."

      The par 4's at Eldon are good, but the par 3's and par 5's are really good.

      "One of the best par 5's at the Lake is our No. 7," Cummings said. "It's tough. It's straight uphill. Depending on what set of tees you play, if you play from the back tees, you have to carry it about 240 to carry the creek.

      "And that still leaves you about 260 or 270 to the green, uphill."

      It's the No. 1 handicap hole on the course.

      "It's definitely a three-shot hole," said Cummings, who's originally from Illinois and has been at Eldon since 2003. "It's probably my favorite hole on the course."

      Holes 12 and 18, both par 5's, are no bargain, either. Then there are the par 3's.

      "No. 17 (182 yards) is really good, because you're looking down at the valley," Cummings said. "And No. 3, it's about 215 from the tips and pretty much all carry (over a lake) to the green."

      Eldon is a member-owned course with one of the biggest memberships in the Lake area. For the first 59 years, it was just a nine-hole course. In 1993, nine holes were added and those holes were spread out between the original nine and the new back nine.

      More changes came seven years later.

      "We had some trouble, condition-wise, when we tried to strip in Zoysia fairways back in 2000," Cummings said. "We had some struggles to get it to fill in. We went through three or four superintendents in those next few years, but then we were lucky enough to get Travis Butts in 2006.

      "Once he was hired, it seemed like overnight, it changed. Condition-wise, the maintenance practices, what he was able to do with this golf course with absolutely no budget, was just incredible."

      Butts, 36, was killed in a car crash last October on his way to work.

      "It was very tragic," Cummings said. "Travis and I were not just professional friends, we were very good friends. We had a great relationship.

      "He was just a top-notch guy, a tremendous family man. He took a lot of pride in his family, and he also took a lot of pride in this golf course and the product the he was putting out there."

      We will end this on a happy note. Cummings, playing in a couples league in 2004 from the white tees, was hitting his tee shot on the 348-yard eighth hole.

      Cummings --- he's 6-1, 215 --- hits it longer than Tiger, Phil and Rory. No, really, I've seen it, I know. He estimates his longest drive is 380 yards.

      "There's a creek in front of the green down there," Cummings said of the eighth hole. "I hit it over it and I saw it roll on the green. Once it got on the green, I couldn't tell.

      "Once we got up on the green, we couldn't see it. I said: 'I think it's in the hole,' kind of joking. And we looked in the hole, and it was."

      It was his fourth hole-in-one, his first on a par-4.

      Cummings, 38, is not getting older.

      Neither is this golf course.