North Fort Myers resident Wilbur Chase has been golfing for nearly two-thirds of his life.
Long ago, during his years as a construction superintendent and vice president in Massachusetts, the 82 year old also started down another path, raising money through various agencies like the United Way and his local church.
Those two things, in small ways, have come to define Chase. In some ways it’s been his legacy.
He’s the athlete who hasn’t missed a beat for 58 years on the golf course, and he’s the man who’s been a tireless worker for others.
“My dad is a wicked benevolent guy,” said his daughter, Kate Chase, a commercial photographer representative who now lives in San Francisco.
Recently, those two things have come into focus again. In December, Chase qualified for the National Senior Games during a one-round qualifier at Magnolia Landing, where he shot an 85 and placed fourth in the tournament.
The top five placers at the qualifier punched tickets to the Senior Games to be held in July in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Then, Chase made a bigger plan: to raise $10,000 for the North Fort Myers golf team as part of a $12,500 goal for his trip.
This coming from a man who had no prior allegiance to the Red Knights. He didn’t graduate from the school, had no children who attended and barely knew what it was before 2005, when he moved to Fort Myers with his wife, Kay.
That made no difference, Kate said. This is the man her father has always been.
“I don’t know how his mind works,” Kate said. “But I know he’s always looking to help other people. It’s just, he has this joy. He looked around on the golf course and this is what kind of came to mind.”
The retired construction professional works as a part-time starter and ranger at Magnolia, where he’s developed a strong rapport with members.
It was there where he saw the North Fort Myers team from afar.
“The kids would come out and play and I could see they were in dire need of new equipment, bags, shoes and balls,” Wilbur Chase said. “And you know what, with my family, I have three kids and we decided to try and raise money for the team to go along with the trip.”
In the month leading into the Senior Games, Chase believes raising money would serve a larger cause then his own. His golf fund through GoFundMe has raised over $4,200 from 39 donors. He’s got five weeks left.
“Our nonrevenue sports who don’t have gates are still in need of equipment and some fees to help make a successful program,” North athletic director Kathy Padilla said. “There will always be a need for those things.”
That $10,000 donation, which will come in the form of a check, will contribute to both the boys’ and the girls’ programs. It will help buy new golf equipment, bags, balls, uniforms, entry fees and possibly meal costs. It could last until the next year, Padilla said.
“We’re very appreciative of the project and the endeavor he’s trying to set forth for the golf team,” Padilla said.
Chase simply saw it as a means of giving back to the sport and the community.
“It could be an incentive for the kids to play,” Chase said. “But it might also show that somebody supports and cares about them.”
In retirement, Chase still golfs nearly twice a week. He’s done so for over five decades now.
The best games of his life have come late in his career. He shot a 70 when he was 70 years old at Skyline Country Club in Massachusetts. He nailed a 73 two years later at the same club.
“I got it on the wall,” he said of the scorecard.
He’s been playing golf ever since his first round in Montgomery, Alabama, when he was in the Army. He’s played rounds in Arizona, South Carolina, New York, California and Bermuda.
Over the years, he’s withstood injuries like broken ankles and a collarbone setback. He once overcame a prostate operation in a few weeks and later, in 2009, was back on the golf course four months after heart bypass surgery.
Golf has even outlasted his marriage, which at 57 years is younger than his loyalty to golf.
“Really, for my dad, it’s about inspiring people to love golf,” Kate Chase said. “It started really early for him.”
His five decade legacy will now hopefully include one big, gracious donation.
About the North Fort Myers golf fund
North Fort Myers resident Wilbur Chase is hoping to raise $10,000 for the North Fort Myers golf team as he prepares to head off to the National Senior Games in St. Paul, Minnesota, in July.