Indian River seniors put golf league on course to growth

Special to the Coastal Point • Christina Weaver: Dick Bradley shows off his plaque given by members of the South division of the Indian River Golf League.Special to the Coastal Point • Christina Weaver: Dick Bradley shows off his plaque given by members of the South division of the Indian River Golf League.Dick Bradley has been a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan and, until he retired, an occasional golfer. He still loves his Eagles, but golf has become as much a focus of his life as his work used to be. And, to her surprise, Bradley’s wife, Rita, became involved, too, though not as a player.

Bradley started his career with Eastern Airlines in 1957 at the Philadelphia Airport. Never a shy man and always friendly, he took advantage of opportunities that came his way for advancement and making a difference. Thus he progressed from providing luggage-ramp service to gate agent, to supervisor and then to administrator for 137 pilots.

The Bradleys moved to Bay Colony after retirement, looking for a slower pace of life. It would be the time, they thought, for Dick to play a little more golf.

“I heard there was a golf group associated with the Indian River Senior Center and decided to join,” said Bradley. “Two years later, in 1999, Rita and I were on vacation in Florida and I got a call from the Center and heard, ‘I understand you’re going to run the Golf League.’ Apparently, my good friend Bob Lenaghan had volunteered me!”

“At that time, we had 54 golfers — all men — and used seven golf courses. Today, there are 710 players — men and women — and we play at 21 different courses. We used to line up on the first tee and draw Popsicle sticks to determine the order of play. Changing to a shotgun start was one of the first things I did.”

Due to the growth of the league, it now has five Indian River divisions, each with 30 teams. As Bradley acknowledges, the divisions are not very creatively named: North, South, East, West and Central.

Each division has a director and, until this year, Bradley has been director for the South, as well as the primary contact with the senior center. The other division directors are Brian MacNeal (North), Raymond Richard (East), Russ Gray (West) and Bill Falk (Central).

Four of the divisions play on Mondays and one on Thursdays, every week from the end of March until the middle of November. Each division comprises of teams of four. It is the responsibility of each team leader to contact the director every Wednesday to give the count of their golfers for the following week.

That’s how Rita Bradley got involved.

“It used to be that everyone called in their numbers of players, and it happened that I was the one who mostly answers the phone,” she said. “I got to know all their names and then, at end-of-year banquet, I got to associate their faces.”

More recently, however, the information is shared by email, and the phone calls have been reduced from more than 25 callers to a couple who remain computer-averse.

“I’ve found that we spouses look forward to golf days as much as the golfers,” said Rita Bradley. “It’s our day to ourselves, however we want to spend it. In fact, we get disappointed when it rains or for some reason they don’t feel like playing!”

By the end of last year’s playing season, Bradley decided it was time to pass over the reins and enjoy playing golf and not organizing it. John Buono from Ocean View and Monica Fleischmann from Rehoboth Beach are assuming responsibility for the South division this year.

The annual banquet at the Cripple Creek Golf Course was extra-special for the Bradleys.

“We had a five-course dinner, door prizes and all — it was a real occasion. We were treated like kings and queens,” said Bradley, who was awarded a plaque of gratitude from the members.

Golfing pal Paul Schwab said, “Dick is a great organizer, coordinator, leader and friend to many. It will be nice to see him this year enjoying just playing the game without carrying over a hundred people on his shoulder!”

“Golf has provided me with many happy times,” said Bradley. “There are so many favorites, but perhaps the best was at Faith Hill in Ireland, near to where my family was from. That was the course where we got lost. We came across three tall, lanky, young lads who asked what we were looking for. We said, ‘The sixth hole,’ and they told us we were on the 14th! They walked all the way back with us to get us to the right place.”

It turns out that, while everyone in the league loves golf, they’re not all Eagles fans.

“Rivalry is part of our camaraderie,” said Bradley. “In our group, we have football fans from all over. At the end of a round of golf, when we sit down for a beer and sandwich, the conversation often turns to football. They rib me about my Eagles, but it’s all fun.”

Those interested in knowing more about the league can call (302) 934-8839.