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Always Game
Ron Fimrite
June 10, 1996
Gene Littler tamed the Monster at the '61 Open, then faced a sterner test
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June 10, 1996

Always Game

Gene Littler tamed the Monster at the '61 Open, then faced a sterner test

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But luck also figures large in the Littler lexicon. He is lucky, he says, in his choice of wives—"finding the right person to live your life with is always just plain lucky." He is lucky to have earned a handsome living playing a game he has loved since he was a youngster scrambling around San Diego's courses. He's lucky to have been able to continue playing into his 60's on the Senior tour, earning more money there than he ever did on the regular Tour. And, most of all, he's lucky to be alive.

Of course, there has also been the bad luck. In 1984 he fell from a ladder while working on one of his vintage autos and broke his already weakened left arm. It was, he insists, "the worst of all my injuries since it absolutely destroyed my short game. I couldn't chip at all there for a while." He has also had three knee operations and surgery on both shoulders for rotator-cuff injuries. And he suffers from an arthritic back. "There's good and there's bad," he says philosophically. "It's all part of the deal."

Littler is munching on a burrito in one of San Diego's better Mexican restaurants. The sandy hair is flecked with gray, but he is still a trim 160 pounds and his oval face shows few of the ravages of time and trouble. "People ask me why I keep playing. You're 65, they'll say, so what more do you have to prove?" He laughs. "Well, all I say is that I still want to be as good as I can at whatever age I am. I guess I'll play until I can no longer be competitive or at least until my scores are closer to 80 than 70. You know, it's actually hard to play for fun. I need the challenge. And in my mind I can still play. I could say I still have the quest." He dusts a speck of crust from his cheek. "Do you think I'm delusional?"

No.

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