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Going for the Greens

A bad day on the golf course for a loosely knit group called the Three-Putters means a good day for Community Hospital.

That's because members fine each other every time they take three or more putts to finish a hole. Those fines accumulate until the end of the year, when they're turned over to Community Hospital to support its hospice programs.

"I guess it must be about $500 a year - 1,000 three-putts - which tells you what good putters we are," says Don Conrad, the unelected and unofficial leader.

The group has been around for more than 20 years, but didn't get its name until the late 1980s "when we became synonymous with lousy putting," Conrad says. It is made up mostly of retired military men who tee off on Saturday mornings at the Bayonet and Blackhorse golf courses in Seaside.

"People come into the group, people leave the group," Conrad says. "But there's a hardcore group of us, probably about 10, who have been playing for years and years and years."

Conrad, who retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel, joined the golfers in 1985. At that time, he says, the fines were 25 cents and the pool was used to help pay for an annual golf outing at another course. In the late 1980s, the Three-Putters decided to start giving the money to a charitable group; and around 1990, he says, Community Hospital became the beneficiary.