The numbers on this golf course run together. The thermometer pushes 90. The scores approach 100. And the golfers soaking it all in are doing fine at ages 103 and 98.
"Putters are good as canes, too," says Dick Breeden, the 98-year-old, even if he doesn't need any help striding off the green at Arlington Lakes Golf Club in Arlington Heights after rolling in a 12-foot putt for a par.
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His partner, 103-year-old Dick Muhlethaler, boasts a gait as smooth as his swing, which draws admiration from the youngsters in their Luther Village retirement community foursome, 87-year-old Charles Beck and 86-year-old Bud Hoffman, as well as other Arlington Lakes golfers.
"He has a classic swing, a pro-like swing," says Sam Saran, 90, who teamed with Muhlethaler more than a decade ago to win a couple of club championships for golfers 75 and older. "We won, and he already was over 90."
Muhlethaler does have the advantage of practicing year round, thanks to a cardboard contraption he fashioned in his apartment at Luther Village in Arlington Heights.
"I never was a tall man," says Muhlethaler, who says he's shrunk in recent years to a height of about 5 feet. That enables him to swing his clubs inside his apartment and hit his cardboard target without the club touching his ceiling.
"He swings that club all through the winter," says Breeden, a tall man who'd be even taller if his back weren't in bad shape from all those years when he owned Wauconda Orchards. "I just plain lifted too many apple crates. That's why I'm bent over."
Muhlethaler's sweet swing results in a steady diet of 150-yard drives down the middle of the fairway.
"At least we're straight," Muhlethaler says.
"No military golf -- right, left, right, left," quips Breeden, who notes the foursome doesn't use any military language, either. "No swearing, no cussing. 'Oh shucks' is the best we can do."
Just missing a birdie putt to settle for a par, Muhlethaler admits that his biggest problem on the golf course has nothing to do with his shots.
"I can't see where my ball goes most of the time," he says.
"I'm his eyes," Breeden says.
The pair have been playing together for almost a decade, says Bruce Nixon, the desk manager at Arlington Lakes.
"Their minds are sharp as a tack," Nixon says. "They haven't lost anything in the 12 years I've been here."
Both successful entrepreneurial businessmen, Breeden lived in Wauconda and Muhlethaler lived in Barrington before they moved to the retirement community.
"I got involved in plastics when I graduated from college in 1932," says Muhlethaler, who started Arrem (the phonetic spelling of his R.M. initials) Plastics in 1945 in Addison. Married for a total of 50 years to two wives who died, he is a father of two and a grandfather of two.
When a pair of golfers ahead of them linger about 250 yards down the fairway, suggestions that Muhlethaler give them time to get out of the way before he tees off are met with a quick laugh.
"Hit them? Maybe on my third shot," he says.
Beck and Hoffman, the only member of the foursome who still has his driver's license, say they get inspired with every shot Breeden and Muhlethaler make.
"Last week, Dick Breeden shot a 51 and Dick (Muhlethaler) shot a 53," says Hoffman.
"I never shot well, 95 to 100 (for 18 holes), but I always enjoyed the game," says Muhlethaler, who doesn't know how long he's golfed. "I started when I was 17 and I'm 103 now, so you can figure it out."
Breeden, who drives the golf cart with Muhlethaler as his passenger, putts well and finishes the nine holes with a score of 49, half his age. Muhlethaler, admitting that the attention from newspaper people might be messing up his game a bit, wilts on the last three holes. He takes a 10 on a hole after getting stuck in a sand trap and finishes with a 61, 10 strokes higher than he often shoots.
"I'll be there at the end of this season, I'm sure," Muhlethaler says of his desire to shoot half his age.
After golf, Breeden heads home for lunch with his wife, Margie, with whom he'll celebrate a 75th wedding anniversary on July 15. A father of four daughters and one son, and grandfather of eight, Breeden was an avid tennis player until a stroke more than a decade ago. Always an athlete, he was a member of the Northwestern University water polo team that won the Big Ten championship in 1938.
"I don't have anything like that to talk about," Muhlethaler says, noting his high school in Newark, New Jersey, didn't even have athletic teams. But his drives on two par-3 holes end up on the greens, not far from the pins, drawing anticipatory shouts from his playing partners, who think they might witness a hole-in-one.
"I did get a hole-in-one once," Muhlethaler says. "But I was 80 years old when I got it."