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Travelin' Man
Tim Crothers
January 18, 1993
Freewheeling Senior golfer Larry Laoretti, who navigates the tour in a mobile home, has finally found the road to success
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January 18, 1993

Travelin' Man

Freewheeling Senior golfer Larry Laoretti, who navigates the tour in a mobile home, has finally found the road to success

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"I don't drink or smoke, and I detest women," the golfer responds.

"Then what do you want to live another 50 years for?" the doc says.

Of course, there was the time in Scotland when Susan wished her husband wasn't such a crowd pleaser. It was in September 1989, a week before their wedding, and Larry was playing in an all-expenses-paid tournament sponsored by the South Florida PGA. Despite being, well, tipsy much of the week, Laoretti won the $200 prize by five shots. It was all the money the couple had in the world. "So at the champion's dinner Larry gets loaded again," Susan recalls. "He could hardly talk, but when they called him up for his speech...." Laoretti stumbled up to the dais and summoned up an eloquent dissertation on the Scottish moors, peace on earth and whatever else came to mind. By the end there wasn't a dry eye in the house. He concluded by saying, "and finally, my friends, I'd like to donate my winnings to Scottish junior golf." Susan nearly fainted into her shepherd's pie.

This same charm captivated the golf gods at the Senior Open in July. At the champion's toast the blue blazers at the USGA got so carried away with Laoretti lore that they replaced the customary champagne with cheap Italian wine. Later that night Laoretti was back at the campground signing autographs for everybody in Bethlehem but Mary and Joseph. Says Susan, "I remember thinking how our whole life had changed in one day."

If it's Sunday night, this must be Grand Rapids, Mich., another stop on the Senior tour. Laoretti is sitting at a picnic table in a local campground and confessing his sins—which include multiple use of the Creator's name in vain during an unwanted stint in an unraked sand trap at The Highlands course earlier in the day—to a jovial, rotund priest named Father Turk. The priest is one of hundreds of ordinary people across the country whom Laoretti invites to join him and his family for a friendly picnic dinner when they're in town. Father Turk is wearing a too-small T-shirt that reads ON THE EIGHTH DAY GOD CREATED GOLF COURSES, and belly laughing over how he had been mistaken for pro Orville Moody three times that day.

Meanwhile, Susan is clearing the remnants of franks and beans from the picnic table and humming Achy Breaky Heart. Lonnie, a darling little poster child for the terrible twos, screeches, "Cowabunga, dude!" for the 127th time while goring unsuspecting guests with his ninja sword. Daddy just couldn't be prouder.

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same
.

When the party's finally over, it's time to ride once again. But first Laoretti takes a quiet moment to survey the surrounding landscape from his own peculiar vantage point, a lonely picnic bench in space number 43 at the Grand Rogue campground.

"You wanna know something? We came from the absolute bottom of the cellar to the very top of the world," he says, puffing madly on his cigar. "Three years ago we didn't even have two buffaloes to rub together, and here we are today. Is this just an unbelievable rags-to-riches story, or what?"

Fuhgeddabowdit.

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