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Senior athlete uses sports to stay fit, young at heart

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As Donn Voyles stepped to the plate during his 60-and-over softball game last week, the opposing outfielders gave each other a nod and moved deeper.

It wasn’t deep enough.

Voyles crushed a shot to deep center and coasted to second base with a double.

Nobody was surprised. Voyles has been crushing balls around a diamond for years — and rolling big games at the bowling alley and shooting solid rounds of golf.

Voyles is 81.

“Everybody is different,” Voyles said. “I’m more different than most people. You just have to believe in yourself, do the right things and stay healthy.

“I could have found all kinds of excuses for not doing anything. With a lot of support from my friends, I still have the desire to play golf, bowl and play softball regularly.”

While softball might be Voyles’ go-to sport, he golfs at Greensburg Country Club on a daily basis, bowls at the Columbus Bowling Center and pitches horseshoes.

Anything to stay active.

In fact, Voyles believes that activity is the most important factor to staying young. Even more so than his diet.

‘Have fun with what you do’

In regard to food, he was always taught, “If it’s not fried, it’s not good.”

“I’m a very big eater,” Voyles said. “I have my friends look at me going up to the Golden Corral buffet line when I get that extra piece of fried chicken, shaking their heads wondering how I stay so fit.

“You just have to stay active.” he said.

Voyles often can be seen bowling in a league on Tuesdays, and he carries a 200 average.

“It’s always been a fun sport for me,” Voyles said. “And that’s the thing, when you have fun with what you do, things seem a little easier.

“There used to be multiple bowling alleys in Columbus, but we’re down to one. I don’t know if it’s that we’re too lazy to get out and do things, but it’s a lot harder to fill leagues.”

Voyles fell in love with competitive softball when he played during “R-and-R” breaks from his Navy duties. He served for four years and was deployed twice to Korea, returning home in 1956.

“We would always place wagers against each other,” Voyles said. “Each shift would challenge another shift. I always thought that it was a fun, active sport, and I wanted to keep at it for as long as I could.”

Don Ward, a longtime friend of Voyles, said his desire to continue being competitive inspires many.

“He just doesn’t quit,” Ward said. “He gives all of us the drive to continue staying active and having fun. A lot of people our age just want to relax.”

‘Just do it’

Ward, who is 77, said people have to be motivated to continue to be involved with sports.

“Donn shows that you can’t ever give up,” Ward said. “If you decide to quit, that’s when trouble starts to happen with your health. Being active is one of the best things you can do at our age.”

“If you have a desire to do something, don’t just sit around and think about it, find a way to do it.” Voyles said.

“Just do it,” is a common refrain for Voyles.

“While I don’t have time to necessarily do everything, I still have time to do what I want,” he said. “Sure, I’m 81, but you have to make the best of every opportunity God gives you.”

Voyles is a member of 60-and-over and 75-and-over softball travel teams, and he usually accompanies the teams on trips south, including stops in Florida, his personal favorite.

“There’s something about the sunshine down there that I love,” Voyles said. “It’s also a very competitive place to play softball, and it holds a lot of fun tournaments.”

Voyles loves his time at Greensburg Country Club, and he also plays Shadowood in Seymour.

“Rain or shine, I always try to play,” Voyles said. “I have a member pass that gives me a discount every time I play at Greensburg, and I take advantage of it.

“Golf is one of those games that you can play by yourself and enjoy. It’s a lot more fun to play with others; but just the same, you like the peace and quiet.”

Voyles’ competitive edge doesn’t seem to be tapering off.

“I’m not one to sit around all the time,” he said. “Whenever there is a game to be played, I’m there. I take advantage of every day I’m given in my life, and I’m never going to change that.”

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