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Swingin' Singles When golf's lonely hearts club has a get-together, (almost) anything goes


As pale as he is plump, aging smoothie Ed Schneider stumbles along
a Savannah fairway in an advanced state of disrepair. The
53-year-old divorce started swigging Southern Comfort on the
practice green, and here at the 4th hole looks permanently
potted. "Hey, girls," he tells the two middle-aged women in his
foursome. "Whadjya say we just get naked and jump in a pile?"

Although neither takes Schneider up on his offer, one woman asks
him, "What's in the bottle?"

Schneider unscrews the fifth and passes it around. "Smells like
medicine," sniffs the other woman.

"That's what I use it for," says Schneider, lubricating the idea
with another mouthful. "You never know where in the rough there
might be a rattlesnake. If you're bitten, whiskey will numb the

The first woman looks skeptical. The other one rallies. "O.K.,"
she says. "I'll have a sip." She takes one and says, "It's
sweet!" By the 8th hole she's taking long slugs. "Women, booze
and golf," Schneider says. "This is my kind of club."

Schneider's club is the American Singles Golf Association, a love
'n' links outfit with only two rules: You've got to bring your
own clubs, and you can't wear a wedding ring. The 50 chapters
nationwide sponsor cookouts, mixers and "fairway outings"--which,
cracks founder and president Tom Alsop, have nothing to do with
exposing gay golfers. "We're 4,000 individuals who happen to be
single and play golf," he says. "We're a blend of everyone, from
the wild and woolly to the recently widowed." Schneider is
perhaps the wildest and woolliest. The rest tend to be fairly
sedate pensioners out for a little match play.

For $70 a year the ASGA gives you a monthly newsletter and
invitations to five multichapter golf weekends--the most recent
being the one Schneider attended last month in Savannah. New
Jersey member Debbie Seaman calls these get-togethers "overnight
camp for dysfunctional adults."

The dysfunctionals range in age from 30 to the mid-70s, though
the majority are between 45 and 60. Women slightly outnumber men.
All can swing--a 25 handicap is average--but not all are swingers.
"Twenty percent of the men ask for their own hotel rooms," says
Trista Holwager of North Carolina. "Either they want their
privacy or figure they'll get lucky."

Even those who share rooms sometimes get lucky, reports former
Charlotte branch president Jackie Daly: "Sometimes, when you walk
the lobbies at 2 a.m., you see which roommates have been thrown
out of their room for a while."

Nonetheless, Alsop insists, the association is not a dating
service. "Sure," he concedes, "if one member is interested in
another, the two can be paired for a round. But we don't set up
couples. Nor are we a bunch of party animals out on the golf
course. That comes later in the day."

Alsop figures that the ASGA has accounted for about 70 weddings,
one of which was held during a round at a club in Athens, Ga.
When the bride and groom reached the 18th green, they marked
their balls, exchanged vows, kissed and putted out. "Ever since,"
says Alsop, "they've been partners for life."

After two members married and had a child, Alsop received a baby
picture with a note attached: "Even though he doesn't look like
you, we feel you're responsible."

A divorced printing broker, Alsop conceived the ASGA by wedding
his two favorite pastimes: golf and dating. "For me, church
socials were too stifling," he says, "and singles bars were
filled with smoke." The six charter members held their first
meeting 10 years ago in a Charlotte Shoney's. By 1994 the group
had grown to 175. "Golf is a great way to check out potential
mates," says Alsop, who met his girlfriend, Holwager, at an ASGA
soiree in 1997. "Over four or five hours, you get to see them at
their best and worst."

Golf presents every courting hazard from cheating to temper
tantrums. The first woman Alsop was ever paired with kept telling
him how good she was. "Then she teed off and woolly- wormed the
ball to the green," he says. "It was blankety-blank this and
blankety-blank that. When she threw her club after the 1st hole,
I thought, Well, scratch off that one."

Scratching off mates was half the fun at the ASGA affair in
Savannah. On Day Two, Brenda Hall and Winona Ault rode to the
course with fellow divorce Bill Errickson. Hall sized up one of
her male partners from Day One: "He's been divorced 20 years.
What does that tell you?"

"Nobody wants him," said Ault.

"Now ladies, that's not necessarily true," Errickson piped in.
"Maybe he hated marriage so much he doesn't want to repeat the

"Or maybe it was that he found it too wonderful," said Hall.

Sighing heavily, Errickson muttered, "That simply doesn't track."

Many of the singles in Savannah appeared to be less interested in
matrimony than in companionship. "At 60, marriage is a slower
decision," says Alsop. "The kids don't want Daddy dividing the
assets with a total stranger."

Women looking for Mr. Right were just as likely to find Mr. Ed.
Whiskey-swilling Ed Schneider and best buddy,
Jagermeister-guzzling Ed Holian, were cruising their second
national fairway outing. The northern Kentuckians had last
roomed together in December at the ASGA's Panama City, Fla.,
shindig, where they needed only 18 holes to drain an entire
liter of Rebel Yell. "We were drinkin' and partyin' and movin'
and groovin'," says Schneider.

"Not a whole lot of heavy hookin' up," says Holian. "It was more
a relaxed, innocent kind of deal. We did meet two nice gals from
Illinois. Honestly, though, stuff didn't happen until after the

How was that accomplished?

"Skillful manipulation," Schneider says.

So how come the gals from Illinois didn't follow you down to

"Hell, we didn't want them to," he says. "You don't bring a ham
sandwich to a banquet." Chivalry will never have an ally in Ed

At the buffet banquet in the Savannah Marriott ballroom, singles
flirt like idle gods. The men, in freshly pressed slacks and polo
shirts, look as if they have been licked clean by kittens. The
women sparkle in pastel frocks, as dainty as snowflakes. "Sex?"
howls Seaman, a fortyish New Jersey divorcee in a black leather
skirt and fishnet stockings. "I didn't come here for sex--I didn't
pack accordingly."

She and her roomie, Wanda Custer, hung nicknames on the men in
their foursomes: Billy Bear, Everready Eddie, Bikin' Boy,
Birdman, Chuckiepoo, Slut Muffin...."I love 'em," says Custer.
"They're all a pretty decent bunch of guys."

All except for the ear, nose and throat doctor from
Maryland--nicknamed Baltimore Boy--who edged closer and closer
to Seaman in their golf cart. "He was O.K. until he started
telling me how his ex-wife ran off with the pool boy," she says.
Seaman edged farther and farther from him after he told her
where in his ex-wife's anatomy he'd like to stick his five-iron.

Racy repartee is essential to the golf mating ritual. "On the
fairways," says Alsop, "there's often lots of talk about the
birdies and the bees."

"More talk than action," says Holwager. "We're always joking
about putters, holes in one and the back nine."

Alsop suddenly turns sober and pauses. "Forget the back nine!" he
says gruffly.

All this chatter can affect a man's game. "In Panama City I got
stuck with three female yakkers," says 68-year-old Bob Webb of
Tennessee. On the 1st tee he shanked his shot into the trees. On
the 2nd he sliced his drive into the water. After he fared no
better on the 3rd tee, one of the yakkers cackled, "I thought you
could play. What's the matter?"

"You're the matter," Webb shot back. "Don't you ever shut up?"

A recent survey in Golf Digest Woman revealed that while wives
rank their husbands second only to friends as their favorite
golf partners, husbands would rather play with almost anyone but
their spouses, who ranked ahead of only bosses. "The woman in my
cart today gave me a headache from the 2nd hole on," griped a
dyspeptic divorce who identified himself as Ed From Florida.
"She wanted me to drive for her, caddie for her, rake the traps
for her, give her compliments and emotional support. If she
happened to be the last woman on earth and asked me to tie the
knot, I'd still ask for a mulligan."

Tie the knot, and you're out of the ASGA. Alsop and Holwager are
grappling with the implications marriage might have for their
involvement with the group. "I mean, it could happen," says

"It wouldn't look right," says Holwager, rejecting the proposal.
"It would be like a white guy running the NAACP."

Besides, nuptials always make Alsop sad. "Just hearing about the
wedding of two club members brings tears to my eyes," he says.
"I don't cry because I'm happy for them. I cry because I'm
losing their dues."

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY GREG FOSTER Maureen Barnett (right) was happy to see Alice Carr get some lip from Holian (left) and Bill Hill.

TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY GREG FOSTER PLAYING A ROUND The Holian-Carr pairing (left) smacked of romance, while Schneider (below left) had to hand it to his partner, Daly.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY GREG FOSTER RINGSIDE Hill popped the question to Christine DeHaven in Savannah knowing that their days in the ASGA would now be numbered.

Racy repartee is essential, says Alsop. "On the fairways there's
often lots of talk about the birdies and the bees."

"I love 'em," Custer says of Billy Bear, Everready Eddie,
Chuckiepoo, et al. "They're a pretty decent bunch of guys."