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A Long Life, Well Played – Mac McGuire reaches 100 years, and still going

by Bob Bostwick

His hands are meaty, callous, worn. His grip comes at you with friendly determination, a warm smile to go with it. His mind and those hands could still take apart and fix a V-configured, 12-cylinder Allison engine; clear as day, he can describe and define the five throttle positions in a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighter of World War II fame.

Mac celebrated his 100th birthday on February 1, 2021. So, yes, he will be 101 in less than two months. He plays about 100 rounds each year. You will find him mostly at Spokane’s Downriver Golf Course, and mostly in the middle of the fairway.

All that, and much, much more.

The first time I saw Cedrick Oneal “Mac” McGuire, I didn’t quite see him at all.

I saw the hat. The stitching sorta leaped out, “Army Air Corps” in gold letters. I am educated enough to know the name change to United States Air Force came in 1947.

Without introduction, I blurted, “How old are you?”

A bit startled, Mac replied, “Well, I’m 97.” His other golf hat, by the way, reads “WWII Veteran,” also in gold letters.

That encounter was three and a half years ago, along the first tee at Spokane’s Downriver Golf Course. Mac played about 100 rounds that year – as he does every year since taking up the game in 1951.

As it happened, I was a single, and paired with Mac that day. The questions and answers have not stopped since. My questions, his answers.

Mac plays in a group called the Jackson Browns (sic), a name picked out several decades ago to avoid tee time confusion. Three tee times at Downriver are typical – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are guaranteed. The group of 15-20, mostly retired, always plays the regular white tees.

“I will never play the gold (senior) tees,” Mac said. “If I ever have to play the golds, I will quit the game.”

The only other reason he would quit the game might be because it could interfere with his bowling.

At a smooth 100 years (101 coming in February), he can shoot his age on occasion. The best round he ever scored, however, was a two-over par 74. When did he do that? Eight years ago. He was 92.

“I like being out in the fresh air,” Mac said. “I like getting the exercise, and I’m trying to get better all the time.”

Mac served as crew chief in Panama during World War II. He stands here with a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk single-seat fighter plane.

Mac was born and raised in Noblesville, Indiana. He was graduated from Noblesville High School, class of 1938. His father, victim of a rusty nail, died of blood poisoning when Mac was three years old. A life of abject poverty was with him until he joined the Air Corps in 1940, a year and a half after high school. His mother raised four girls and three boys, Mac being the second youngest.

“Life was hard,” he explains. “We never had enough to eat and we never had enough decent clothes. Kids at school were tough on me because we were so poor and because I didn’t have a father at home. I didn’t think I was smart enough for college, but it didn’t matter. There was no money for tuition. Someone finally told me I should consider the Army Air Corps. I did so, enlisted, and everything changed.”

His love for tinkering with machines led to an Air Corps assignment as an aircraft mechanic. He was good at it. Damn good, in fact.

“Everything changed,” he repeats. “I found out I was as good and as smart as the next guy. I finished training in the states in 1940, and requested duty in Panama.”

Life in Panama was simple his first year, military service and working on airplanes right up his alley. There were squadrons of both P-40s and P-39s.

As you would expect, military life in Panama changed dramatically on December 7, 1941.

“We got word of the attack, then a story was getting out that the Japanese were also launching an attack on the Panama Canal,” said Mac. “If that had been true, we would have been in deep trouble. But the change was dramatic, and it included thousands of soldiers in the infantry and artillery, and also the Navy.”

First Sergeant Mac McGuire, Army Air Corps, during World War II.

In those war years, the canal was arguably the most strategically significant facility in the Pacific war, if not the world. Japanese plans to attack it were drawn, but never accomplished.

In uniform, Mac climbed in rank to First Sergeant, serving as crew chief among the P-40s. He later worked on the mighty P-47.

After the war and his marriage, Mac and Mrs. Norma McGuire drove through Spokane while looking for a place to settle. They liked it, and their 49 years together continued in a tidy house on Spokane’s north side. Mac still lives there; Norma passed in 1995.

Mac’s transition from mechanics to sales brought him a lifetime of success and rewards, including an all-expenses trip for golf at Pebble Beach. He parlayed his own hard work for the means to travel, including 16 trips to Hawaii and nine ocean cruises. All that is on top of some 70,000 miles in a motor home, and seeing the country up close and personal.

His life transformed slowly but surely from that suffocating poverty of his youth. Mac became a Norman Rockwell painting.

He estimates he’s played more than 7,000 rounds of golf, many of them with fellow Jackson Brown member Chuck Young, himself a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel. Mac, being a WWII veteran, sorta outranks the good Lt. Colonel.

“Oh, my goodness, absolutely,” said Young. “In the military, an officer is successful when he listens to his sergeants, so I know that. I am amazed that I can play golf with a WWII vet. I always enjoy playing with Mac. He’s always fun and I chase after him to keep up with his pace of play.”

In his free time, Mac’s been dropping an engine in a small RV, then installing a new radiator and heater. Brakes were next. At his 100th birthday party last February, a pandemic protocol event in his front yard, the golf partners showed up, their time limited to allow for Mac’s bowling team.

“Mac is amazing, just amazing,” pipes Max Durall, Mac’s 87-year old friend, and also among the Jackson Brown group. “Mac is my best friend; I talk to him every day. We got to know each other from Kiwanis and bowling in about 1975. I don’t know how he does it, but he keeps going and he gets things done. He even gets mad at me when I don’t call on him for help with my golf cart and trailer.”

He doesn’t do winter golf, so Mac’s 2021 season is over. He’s ready for snow, and he’ll push his snow-blower through the neighborhood – for free, both sides of the street. He’s looking forward to turning 101, winning some bets, and making new friends. He knows full well they’ll all be youngsters, and none among his golf group or circle of friends will look at Cedric Oneal McGuire and expect him to live forever.

No need. He’s already done that.

Bob Bostwick is a former sportswriter and member of the Golf Writers Association of America, a TV news anchor, political reporter and editor, and a publicist. He has won numerous local, regional and national awards as a journalist and filmmaker.