ORONO, Maine — Two weekends ago, George Thibodeau of Orono won the Senior Club Championship tourney at the Hidden Meadows Golf Course in Old Town.
Orono native Thibodeau shot 84 and 81, totaling 165, to beat defending two-time champ Davis Saucier by six strokes.
Thibodeau is 87.
He plays golf at Hidden Meadows twice a week and he also bowls once a week from Labor Day weekend until early May at the Old Town Bowling Center, which is candlepin.
“I try to keep on the move. I’ve always been active. I’m doing something all the time. It’s just the way I’ve always been,” said Thibodeau. “I like to live [life].”
When the two sports overlap, he is even busier.
“But it’s good,” he says.
His relationship with golf began when he was “9 or 10.”
“I started caddying at the Penobscot Valley Country Club,” he said. “But they didn’t let us play. The only time we could play was when they held their caddy tournament once a year.”
He caddied until he was 16.
Thibodeau eventually went into the Navy and served in the Pacific in World War II.
After he returned, Bob Girvan opened the Kenduskeag Golf Course and Thibodeau began hitting the golf ball on a regular basis.
“We used to pay a dollar a day at that time. I’d play from daylight until dark,” said Thibodeau, who has had a variety of jobs during his life including being a shoe shop hand sewer and a plow-truck driver at the University of Maine.
He retired just shy of his 65th birthday.
His oldest son, George Jr., buys him a yearly membership to Hidden Meadows and he takes advantage of it.
He walks the course rather than take a golf cart and he considers the strength of his game to be his driving.
“I drive it pretty good … 200 yards … maybe a little over. And I hit the fairways pretty well,” said Thibodeau. “I do pretty well. I usually shoot in the 40s [over the par 35, 9-hole course]. But the ball doesn’t go where I want it all the time.”
“He’s just amazing. He’s quite a guy,” said Old Town’s Neil Labbe.
Labbe and wife, Cindy, often play with Thibodeau.
“The first time he went out this year, he hit his first drive 200 yards right down the middle,” said Labbe. “He’s also good around the greens. He has the whole game. And he plays from the men’s tees, not the seniors’ tees.”
Labbe also said they don’t have to wait for Thibodeau.
“I’m in my 50s and he plays just as fast as we do,” said Labbe. “And after he plays, he’ll go mow his lawn and work in the garden. He never sits around.”
“He’s a wonderful man. He’s a lot of fun to be with. He always has a lot of energy,” added Cindy Labbe.
She also said he is “very strong.”
“He’s physically strong, mentally strong and spiritually strong,” she said.
“You’d better be careful when you shake hands with him. He has quite a grip,” agreed Hidden Meadows golf pro Joe Perdue.
Thibodeau enjoys playing with the Labbes and relishes the competition at the club.
“I know just about everybody up there. It’s fun. We rib each other and get on each other, you know,” said Thibodeau.
“He loves giving people a [good-natured] hard time,” quipped Brad Wilkins, the assistant pro at Hidden Meadows. “He’s a lot of fun to talk to. He has a lot of good stories.”
“He has a pretty good sense of humor and he is as sharp as a tack,” Perdue added. “He’ll come up with a quip and I’ll get laughing so hard I’ll have to sit down.
Thibodeau has the same passion for bowling. He has a 110 average with a high of 185.
“I used to bowl a lot when I was younger,” he said.
As with golf, he got his start working at a bowling alley.
“I used to set the pins at the Orono bowling alley,” he said.
The highlight of his bowling career was finishing second with his team in the New England championships in Somerville, Mass.
“It was a long time ago,” he said.
“I’ve bowled against him many times. He’s a very good bowler,” said Neil Labbe.
On the golf course, Thibodeau recorded a hole-in-one.
“It was 10 or 15 years ago at Hermon Meadows,” he recalled.
Thibodeau has played golf all over the state.
“I used to play in the Maine State Open and in the Paul Bunyan tournament way back when they used to have it in Lucerne,” said Thibodeau, who has been married to his wife, Gertrude, for 60 years.
The couple has three sons. In addition to George Jr., there are Michael and Christopher.
Although he is retired, Thibodeau still works two days a week, four-hour shifts, and “straightens up” the Newman Center, the Catholic church at the University of Maine, after the service.
Cindy Labbe pointed out that Thibodeau is very proud of his service in the Navy and often walks in parades commemorating the armed services.
“I was in Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Japan, China,” Thibodeau said, trailing off.
Thibodeau has won several tournaments over the years, individually and in team events, and he would like to win even more.
“We’ve got a big tournament coming up Saturday [at Hidden Meadows]. It’s a scramble and there are 20 teams in it,” said an enthusiastic Thibodeau.
“He’s a great inspiration,” said Perdue.