Constable: After a 60-year hiatus, 90-year-old man decides to start playing golf again
With his plaid shorts, Under Armour shirt, Titleist cap and Oakley sunglasses, Iggy Cascio of Schaumburg appears to be just another golfer.
"You ready to hit some balls? It's only been 50 years," says his son, Paolo Cascio.
"Sixty years," says Iggy Cascio, a sly smile emerging from his white beard.
Back then, Cascio was a newlywed who cut hair for a living and was pushing 30. He and his wife, Shirley, lived in Palatine.
"Sixty years ago, when I was in the hair business, I did a couple of professional golfers. They were PGA guys," remembers Cascio, who turns 90 in November.
Those pros gave him some lessons. With his wife working for United Airlines, the couple took some nice trips.
"I came close to a hole-in-one in California," he says, holding his thumb less than an inch from his index finger. "I golfed in Colorado and I never knew the ball would go so far because the air is lighter."
Taking a day off work every Wednesday, Cascio became a regular at the 9-hole course near their home in Palatine. He enjoyed the game, and his scores in the low- to mid-40s were better than most guys'. But he had a good reason to give up golf.
"My wife," says Cascio, who has been married for nearly 61 years and is father to their grown children, Paolo and Stefanie. "I didn't want her to be a golf widow."
The eighth of 14 kids in his family growing up in Rockford, Cascio says he was a "98-pound weakling" until he enlisted in the Air Force for a stint from 1952 to 1956. Stationed at bases in France and Germany during the Korean War, the 5-foot-6 Cascio soon became a fit, 145-pound athletic trainer who helped create fitness programs to keep the men in shape.
He ran his first competitive race, a 10K in Barrington, when he was 49. He ran the New York Marathon when he was 55. He's a perennial winner in his age bracket in the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K race in Chicago and turned in a better time at age 86 than he did at 85. He plans to run the mile in the Illinois Senior Olympics in September. He's never considered himself too old to try new things.
"I learned how to swim when I was 75, and I like it," Cascio says. "If I'm sore from running, I'll go into the pool."
Paolo Cascio, 58, a cinematographer and photographer who started his long career in movies and TV as a second assistant photographer on the 1987 film "Planes, Trains & Automobiles," took his dad to the PGA Tour Superstore in Schaumburg before hitting the Schaumburg Golf Club.
"He was in one of our simulators and he hit a 3-wood 175 yards," Todd Diegel, general manager of the store, says of the 135-pound senior Cascio. "There are 70-year-olds who can't hit it that far."
Diegel says his store is busier than ever because golf became one of the first acceptable social activities after everything shut down during the pandemic. "There are 6 million new golfers," Diegel says, including 3 million who are getting back into the game after being gone for years or, in Cascio's case, six decades.
"That's awesome," says Jonathan Parsons, a certified PGA professional and general manager of golf operations at Schaumburg Golf Club. "What's fun about this game is you can play golf at any time in your life."
The senior league, which includes anyone 55 and older, has 215 members, and 170 of them had already played by the time Cascio hit the links in the afternoon, Parsons says.
On a warm and humid day, Cascio hits a couple of dozen balls on the driving range, practices a few putts and then plays three holes. "At my age, you're supposed to shank some. I don't know why I'm hitting them that straight," Cascio says before suggesting it might be those tips he got from pros 60 years ago. "I still remember some of the lessons from that far back."
His drives generally are straight, he lobs a wedge shot onto the green, and he rolls in an 8-foot putt. He isn't keeping score, but he's happy with the results.
"We can probably encourage older people with what we're doing. Just stay physically active," Cascio says. "People do what they want to do. Some people want to drink and smoke. I've always been very active."
His son regards him as "such an incredible inspiration to me and so many others," saying "his enthusiasm and passion for life are incredibly contagious."
After watching his dad's solid drive down the middle of the fairway, Paolo Cascio says, "You're doing great."
Iggy Cascio smiles.
"I'm getting that feeling back," Cascio says. "I might take up this game."