The golfers who regularly show up to play every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, right at 10 a.m., at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex’s Arcade Creek Golf Course in Sacramento, are with The Homer Group.
It’s a nine-hole group that has been around for about 40 years, from the time that Don Homer was able to secure a standing set of tee times while also taking on the job as the group’s organizer and statistician, as he kept track of everyone’s scores, from round to round, from week to week.
But it’s a group with even more history than that, actually. And it’s a group that is connected and bonded by friendship, loyalty, a spirit for the game of golf, and keeping things pretty light and loose when they are out on the course.
“Normally, it’s 5 to 8 (players). These days, if we get 9, we’re doing pretty well,” said Brett Barton, who plays in The Homer Group. “That’s less than half of what it used to be, because they had 20 people in the group and 16 on a normal day who would show up.
“Over the years, the number in the group has dwindled.”
The origins of the group can be traced all the way back to the late 1950s and early 1960s, when Harold “Hans” Hansen, Elmer Wahlstrom, Jack Allen, and Barton’s father, Lynn “Bart” Barton, got together to play golf each week at Haggin Oaks.
They were school teachers in the Sacramento area, just beginning their careers in education.
“My dad and mom had just graduated college and they both had teaching degrees,” said Brett Barton, a Sacramento resident. “Dad got a job at Don Julio Junior High School (in Sacramento). That’s what brought us to California. He started there in ’58. I was three weeks old when we moved here to California, from Utah.
“And that year, and the year following, these other three guys also started their teaching career.”
Lynn “Bart” Barton taught Spanish and coached basketball at Don Julio Junior High before moving on to teach at Highlands High School of North Highlands. Wahlstrom taught math at Grant High School in Sacramento. Hansen taught science at Foothill High in Sacramento and also coached tennis. Allen taught American history and was the track and field coach and also on the football coaching staff at Highlands High.
Wahlstrom and Hansen were athletes in college. Wahlstrom threw the discus and Hansen played baseball.
“Those were the four original guys,” said Brett Barton.
Original as in getting together and playing golf as a foursome, before there ever was The Homer Group, at Haggin Oaks, a 36-hole facility, managed by Morton Golf, that also features the Alister MacKenzie Golf Course, a 24-hour lighted driving range and learning center that has 100 hitting stalls and target greens, Super Shop, Player Performance Studio, Club Performance & Repair Center, Haggin Oaks Academy Holes, and MacKenzie Putting Course.
“They all met teaching school and they became kind of instant buddies,” said Brett Barton. “They used the gym at a junior high school and they played basketball there and would get other guys to come out. They would go hunting together. They golfed together. It was probably 1959, 1960 when those four started golfing out at Haggin Oaks.”
The group of Harold “Hans” Hansen, Elmer Wahlstrom, Jack Allen and Lynn “Bart” Barton played the Arcade Creek Golf Course together for years and years. They always played nine holes, mostly on weekends and sometimes on weekdays, after teaching.
Brett Barton joined the group, helping out as a caddie, when he was very young.
The four would play a team game, one team against the other team.
“I remember as a child, 6 years old, going out with them. I had no idea what a caddie was,” said Brett Barton. “I knew all these men, basically since birth, because they spent a lot of time together. I knew
them all. They would golf out there. After every round, they would go into the restaurant there and they’d have peanuts and a soda or a candy bar and a soda. That was always the standard bet.
“All of their gambling throughout their entire lives was always small stakes. They didn’t want anything to come into the midst of their friendship. It was all just for fun.”
Allen, 85, is the only one of the original four who is still with The Homer Group and plays golf with the group regularly.
Hansen, Wahlstrom and Lynn “Bart” Barton have passed away.
Hansen died in 2013. He was 78.
Lynn “Bart” Barton passed away August 6, 2020. He was 89.
Wahlstrom passed away August 7, 2020. He was 95.
With emotion in his voice, Brett Barton said: “They’re all just wonderful men. I learned a lot about being a man from being around those men, because they were quality guys – all of them.
“I’ll tell you, these guys, they served each other. I mean, if somebody needed a tree cut down, they were over there with their chainsaws and their equipment. Or if they needed to move, or if they needed to paint their homes … whatever needed to be done. This group of men, they were there to serve each other.
“I just can’t speak more highly of the character of these guys. I’m proud of the life lessons I’ve learned from these guys. They’re all just great and honorable men.
“They’re all service-oriented. They all did a lot of volunteer work. They all had a passion for teaching.”
Lynn “Bart” Barton attended LDS Business College, Ricks College, and earned a degree in political science from the University of Utah. He earned his master’s in public administration from Sacramento State.
Wahlstrom attended Utah State on a scholarship and majored in music. He had a minor in physics. After serving an LDS mission and serving in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II, he returned to college and got his master’s in school administration. He also got his PhD from the University of Utah.
Hansen attended Utah State.
Turning to tennis in the ‘70s
Harold “Hans” Hansen, Elmer Wahlstrom, Jack Allen and Lynn “Bart” Barton began playing tennis in the early 1970s. They did not play as much golf during this time, Brett Barton recalled.
They played doubles, at least three days a week, with a group at American River College in Sacramento and also at Gibbons Park in Carmichael.
“There were 8 to 12 guys showing up to play tennis. They would always play doubles,” said Brett Barton. “They’d choose up teams and they would have a little tournament. That went on for probably 15 to 20 years.”
It was during this time that Don Homer – whom The Homer Group is named after – joined the tennis group.
“Don Homer is also a fabulous athlete and a good tennis player,” said Brett Barton.
Returning to golf
In 1991, after having knee replacement surgery, Lynn “Bart” Barton stopped playing tennis and focused more on golf.
“So all the guys could kind of be together, they started playing golf again,” said Brett Barton.
“Some of them continued to play tennis, but he started playing golf. It was in that era, the mid to late ’80s, into the ’90s, that Don Homer started playing golf with them. They would just go out and get a tee time. But the group started to expand and expanded to probably about 20 guys. They always played Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, at 10 o’clock, and they still do. Instead of going out there and having to give them your name, and to see if there was a slot available, Don Homer got a standing tee time, a set of tee times at 10 o’clock.
“In the late ’80s, early ’90s, they started playing more and more golf again. Don was the guy who kept everybody scores.”
They were playing for a taco in those days, as the group would get together at a nearby Taco Bell afterward.
“That’s what they were betting on in those days. It wasn’t about the money. It was about the camaraderie. They would discuss politics and sports – whatever was going on. They would talk about the old days and reminisce about deer hunting trips and things of that nature,” said Brett Barton.
Brett Barton said he played with the group when he had a day off from work. He retired in 2017 after working 38 years as the IT site manager for The Sacramento Bee. He has been a regular now with The Homer Group since retiring.
The ages of the players range from early 60s to 89. There are some who walk the course, others who take carts.
Sue Johnson, who plays in The Homer Group, is a retired speech pathologist and performs in a local ukulele group. They perform at area retirement homes and also for those in The Homer Group who are not able to get out and play golf any longer.
Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.