At 93, Duffy Martin is tall and distinguished-looking, with a neatly trimmed white mustache and goatee. He has the manners of a Southern gentleman and the sense of humor of a 15-year-old boy. His secret to longevity? Having a good time, exercising and no drinking or smoking.
Duffy’s a modern renaissance man. What he didn’t know or couldn’t do, he learned or figured out. A standout football player at Capitol Hill High School in the 1920s, his formal education was cut short by a game injury that left him with a broken back.
A long stay at the Mayo Clinic interrupted his high school career, and he never went back. He went to work in a lumber camp in Wisconsin, making $45 a month with room and board. On the weekends, he caddied at an exclusive golf club, carrying two bags a round at $10 apiece. His earnings exceeded his regular wages.
Duffy had never played golf, but one day, that changed. During his clients’ lunch break, making sure no one was looking, he teed up a ball and discovered he had a real knack for the sport. He was hooked.
Although he did other work for several years ” war work at Tinker Air Force Base, ironworking on the Texas coast and driving a cab in Oklahoma City ” golf was his passion. In the late ’40s, he built a driving range and par-3, lighted golf course called Duffy’s Golf Land at N.W. 58th Street and May Avenue. In 1948, he became a member of the PGA.
After selling Golf Land, he built two golf courses in Moore: Brookside and, later, Broadmoore.
“My dad was a baseball man, and he never could understand what I saw in golf,” Duffy said. “When I showed him the land I bought, he told me, ‘I never thought I’d raise a son who’d love to play golf so much he’d ruin a perfectly good farm so he’d have a place to play.'”
His magnum opus is the dual Cimarron National and Cedar Valley complex west of Guthrie ” four championship courses, plus an 18-hole, par-3 course; an RV park; and residential development. He took aerial photos of the land to famed course architect Floyd Farley, who drew up plans.
Duffy did the rest: scraping and shaping the land, bulldozing trees, damming streams, using his ironwork skills to build bridges.
But with all his work, Duffy finds time for other pursuits, including daily, hour-long workouts. And he also has time for friends. One of them is actor Leslie Nielsen, whom he met playing in a celebrity/pro tournament.
Here’s where Duffy’s sense of humor comes in: His constant companion is an apparatus he created and named “Han-D-Gas.”
“Concealed in the palm of the hand,” he said, “it is capable of producing a symphony of fart noises, from low rumbles to high whistles.”
The two men didn’t seem to have much in common until Duffy let off a couple of blasts. Nielsen didn’t say anything for several holes, finally getting out of the cart and walking until Duffy let him in on the joke. The men have been pals ever since.
Nielsen said of Duffy, “He’s a very distinguished, elegant, loving guy, and a guy that I’d trust with anything.”
And Nielsen liked the Han-D-Gas gadget, too. You can hear it in action in his “Naked Gun” movies.
Another friend, longtime sportswriter Frank Boggs, said, “He may be the only legend I ever knew. ‘Energetic’ isn’t a good enough word for him. The amount of work he’s done is just staggering. And for someone who is not a great PGA tour player, he’s pretty well-known nationally.”
Actually, Duffy is the reigning PGA 90-and-up champion.
His daughter, Claudia Heatly, sums it up: “He taught us hard work, ethics and to enjoy every day.”
Duffy certainly does. “Elaine Warner
photo Duffy’s Golf Land.