“Golf can best be defined as an endless series of tragedies obscured by the occasional miracle.” — Anonymous
Cotton Renner has played golf for 70 years. Seventy years of pars, bogeys, birdies, an occasional eagle and one miracle.
Renner, on July 30 while playing a foursome at Twin Oaks Country Club in Winnsboro, experienced a miracle. Renner hit his first hole-in-one.
As a legally blind 84-year-old, Renner is lucky to be out on the course, much less still stroking the ball that well. But, that is what he does as often as he can; he plays golf with a little help from his friends on the course.
“All my boys I play with always watch where it goes because I never see where I hit it,” Renner said. “They all went to hollering ‘bounce right, go in the hole, go in the hole.’ I was looking at them, and they were jumping up and down and clapping, so I figured it must have went in.”
Renner’s “boys” are his two sons, Darcy and Robin, and any of the Club’s regulars. They are all his “boys” to the longest standing Twin Oaks Country Club member.
“All these boys belong to me one way or the other,” Renner said.
According to Darcy, who recently won the club’s tournament senior division championship, his boys have lovingly nicknamed his father, “Where Did It Go?”
“After the shot he always asks ‘Where did it go?’” Darcy explained, laughing.
When asked how the hole-in-one felt, Renner said, “It was pretty strange actually. My youngest son was playing in the foursome with me, and my other son was playing right behind me, so he was watching too. It was quite a feat.”
Renner suffers from macular degeneration which causes loss in the center of the field of vision. In dry macular degeneration, the center of the retina deteriorates. With wet macular degeneration, leaky blood vessels grow under the retina.
Renner’s condition does not stop him from enjoying the game he loves. He has learned to work through it. He describes the effects of macular degeneration as “spider webs” in your eyes.
Macular degeneration gradually fills the spider webs in. “So, you have to find where the holes (in the spider webs) are,” Renner said.
The eye disease affects Renner’s frontal vision, although he still has peripheral vision.
“When I cock my head just right, I can still see the ball,” he said, lowering his head to the side. “I have to keep my head still because the ball disappears.”
“Medically, he can’t see, but he can hit it in the hole,” Darcy said.
It’s not just macular degeneration that slows Renner down. He also has two artificial knees and an artificial hip, but Renner stays on the course swinging away. It is where he wants to be.
“Not much left to go wrong with me,” Renner said.
A lifelong passion
Golf has been a lifelong passion for Renner and his family.
He started playing golf at 13 when his brothers dug holes, sand traps and greens in a cow pasture near their west Texas home.
“We learned to play on that golf course,” he remembered. “I played on that until I graduated high school”
He went into the service after high school. After serving his country, he returned to Texas and spent 20 years in the golf business managing golf courses. During that time, he received his Professional Golfer’s Association (PGA) card.
In 1980, he moved to northeast Louisiana to start an irrigation business with his brother but golf remained an integral part of his and now his family’s lives.
“My boys grew up on the golf course,” Renner said. “I’ve had something to do with golf my whole life”
Darcy and Robin play golf and own a Liddieville turf farm. His wife, Kay, is also an avid golfer, and she has more hole-in-ones.
“She’s not but 81, but she has six (hole-in-ones),” he said.
When asked how long he expects to play, Renner didn’t have an exact answer.
“Golf is a sport that you can play from the time you are 10 years old until you are 84 at least,” He advised, saying. “I don’t know how much longer I’ll keep playing. As long as I keep an eye on the ball, I’ll keep playing.”
He said golf can bring your family together.
“I just like everybody to realize that golf is something you can do with your family or friends,” Renner said. “Any level you want to take it to. You can be a social golfer, a serious golfer, a competitive golfer. You can choose what you want to do. It’s a great sport. You can tell the character of anybody you want to find out by playing golf.”
Renner, his wife and boys will continue to play the sport they love together as a family.
“The moral of the story is you just got to keep trying and never give up,” Tim Ford, one of Renner’s adopted boys, said. “He is a super senior. At his age, he still hits the ball very well.”