Don Byers received the Hollywood treatment the past few days.
A television crew from the Golf Channel hung around Byers, conducting interviews and filming his every move during Tuesday’s round at Tiburon Golf Club.
“They didn’t bother me. It was kinda fun,” Byers said. “I just wish I could play a little better golf.”
Byers shot a 79 Tuesday during the Midland Invitational, tying for 32nd in the 74-man field. But it’s his age — and who he’s competing against — that has garnered attention.
Byers is a 61-year-old grandfather of four who is playing for Bellevue University as a freshman. The idea for Byers to join the Bruins was hatched last summer, when Bellevue coach Rob Brown saw the 2-handicap playing at Champions Run.
Brown wondered if Byers, who went to UNO to play baseball in the 1970s but never saw the field because of injury, had any eligibility left. Byers initially thought Brown was kidding, but they continued to discuss the possibility.
And this semester, Byers found himself back in school and part of the seven-man team.
“I haven’t had a negative experience the whole time,” Byers said. “To a person, everyone my age has said, ‘Go for it, have fun.’ And the kids have been great.”
The kids, of course, are his teammates and fellow competitors. Byers, who is 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, hits the ball off the tee as far as his competitors, and he easily chats with them during rounds.
“He’s got one of those personalities that he fits in with a lot of people,” Brown said. “He’s witty, he’s clever, so it’s been fun.”
Six months ago, Byers said he wouldn’t have imagined being in school, playing golf and being featured in Golf Digest, Sports Illustrated and on ESPN’s website. The segment on the Golf Channel is scheduled to air in about six weeks.
Byers added that he plans to play for the Bruins during the fall season and possibly beyond that. This spring, Byers has played as an individual at tournaments, not factoring into Bellevue’s team score.
“At first my goal was to make it too tough for them to cut me,” Byers said. “Now I want to make the (tournament) team and contribute.”
Byers, who lives in Elkhorn, sold the insurance agency he owned about five years ago but still works there. He’s added a college workload — he takes two courses on campus and one online — and his team responsibilities.
“He’s lost 35, 40 pounds between cross-fit and just getting his schedule adjusted. He doesn’t have time to eat,” Brown said.
Brown added that Byers has handled all the adjustments “with a smile on his face.”
“He’s always anxious to get to the next adventure,” Brown said.
In other Midlands notes:
» Tudor Flintham, who has been Nebraska Wesleyan’s men’s and women’s soccer coach the past three seasons, accepted a coaching position at Gustavus Adolphus in Minnesota. Under Flintham, the Wesleyan men went 27-22-5. Their 11 wins last season were the most for the program since 2008. The women’s team went 21-31-2.
» York volleyball coach Erin Freeman stepped down after three years. York hopes to name a new coach before the end of the spring semester.
» UNK named Marc Bauer, who led the Lopers to three wrestling national championships in the past 10 years, as the interim athletic director. UNK A.D. Paul Plinske recently accepted the A.D. position at Colorado State-Pueblo. UNK’s process for a national search for a permanent A.D. will begin this fall.
» For the ninth straight week, Wayne State’s Michaela Dendinger was named the Northern Sun field athlete of the week.At last Thursday’s UNK Invite, Dendinger won the discus (175-0) and shot put (49-10) and placed second in the hammer throw (201-10). In the season NCAA Division II standings, the Hartington graduate has the best throw in the hammer, is second in the shot and is fourth in the discus.
» The GPAC baseball players of the week were pitcher Vinny Schmidt of Hastings and Doane shortstop Tommy Anderson. Schmidt had a win and a save, including a three-hit shutout against Dordt. Anderson hit two home runs and drove in four for Doane, which continues to lead the league standings.
» The GPAC softball player of the week is Doane’s Nicole Fernandez, who had four multi-hit games and drove in five runs for the week.
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