Four Hours, Three Times a Week: Janet Kratina's Golden GameAug 27, 2021 04:09PM ● By Kara Schweiss
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
Janet Kratina regularly walks and swims; she also plays bridge, and spends time with her grandchildren as part of a busy lifestyle at 68. “I’m active every day and to me that’s part of my good life,” she explained.
She also plays golf as many as three times a week nearly year-round, which may make it the most important component of keeping fit in her 60s.
“You’re walking and swinging a golf club. I consider four hours of golf, in my life, a pretty good workout even if I’m in a cart. And what could be better for your mind than being outside in a beautiful setting with friends?”
As much as she touts the benefits of golden-years golf, however, Kratina actually took up the sport during a very different phase of her life.
“I started golfing as a young mom, and I did it to get out of the house so I could spend some time with my friends,” she recalled, adding that she often didn’t make it to the ninth hole. “We girls would go out there and spray balls all over the place for five or six holes and then we’d go inside and eat lunch.”
The social aspect of golf kept her heading back to the course past the years when her children needed a babysitter.
“It was something fun I could share with my husband and my friends,” she said. “I love getting outside and love getting exercise.”
Kratina taught school for five years before becoming a stay-at-home mom and, later, gave her time to numerous local nonprofits and organizations. As she put it, “I could make a list a page long.” Naturally, she integrated golf into her volunteer work, although she declined to name specific organizations.
“I’ve been an active community volunteer for 40 years, so I’m certain I’ve played in every charity tournament imaginable and I’ve worked most of them; I couldn’t name one over the other,” she said. “When you’re in the golfing world in Omaha and you’re also a volunteer, every time anybody has a charity event, you get the call.”
Kratina said she doesn’t mind getting the call.
“I play every Tuesday in our ladies’ league at [Omaha Country Club], and then I usually play another time during the week, and then I play almost every Sunday with my husband and friends,” she said. She may be an experienced golfer, but Kratina emphasized that she’s no elitist. In fact, she welcomes amateurs.
“It’s my own game and it’s your own game. I just like to play with nice people…My favorite golf companions are anybody that will put up with me,” she said, wryly. “I have my regulars that I play with, my husband and my good pals, but I’ve also made a lot of new friends playing golf, and that’s part of what’s fun about it for me.”
It’s never too late to take up golf, OCC Board Member Mike Wade said.
“It’s truly a lifetime sport and there aren’t a lot of sports you can say that about,” he said. Like Kratina, he emphasized that golf can be flexible and the learning phase can be fun for players.
“The sport adapts to you, opposed to the other way around, regardless of your skills,” he said. “At OCC, there are nine different sets of tees that can be played five different ways depending on your ability and your desire to be challenged. You choose.”
Even competitive play can accommodate relative newcomers, he added.
“There are plenty of formats for tournaments…People of all skill levels can contribute.”
Wade, who’s now in his 60s, plays with golfers of all ages, including women and men in their 70s. He said he sees players in their 60s, 70s, and beyond on the course every day.
“It’s good for people of all ages but certainly good for people over 65 for three particular reasons: One is that it gets you outside. Secondly, it gets you to be active and to move around,” he said. “But most important is the fact that golf is a social game. If you’re playing nine it’s two hours, if you’re playing 18 it’s four hours of conversation during the round. And there is plenty of opportunity for conversation after the round. It’s a social sport.”
Although she is not motivated by winning, Kratina said she “can and will”
“I play on our interclub team and I play tournaments at our club, but I do not love to compete,” she said. Nevertheless, her best game was an 81 at Happy Hollow Club. And, “I’ve had two holes in one.”
She adds, with a laugh, “Well, you know they’re accidents. I didn’t even see them go in; I was busy talking.”
Kratina said her goal when golfing is to enjoy the experience.
“Don’t take yourself too seriously. It is supposed to be a game of pleasure. That is my best advice,” she said. “You need to relax and play your game and enjoy it for what it is. There are going to be good scores and bad scores. But on your worst day you’ve been to a beautiful place with your good pals, and you’ve been there for four hours. And hopefully no more than four hours because if you spent more than four hours out there you’re not playing fast enough!”
Kratina has played most, if not all, of Omaha’s club courses as part of being on OCC’s interclub team. “I really enjoy playing public courses, too. There are some very nice public courses in town.”
She and husband Mark also get to other courses in Nebraska, especially in the northern part of the state.
“There are a lot of nice courses in the Sandhills, and the newest notable course that just opened this year is CapRock Ranch [in Valentine],” she said. “We’re really tickled to get to play CapRock Ranch, it’s an awesome course.”
Other favorite Sandhills-area courses are The Prairie Club and Dismal River Club. Outside of Nebraska, Kratina’s favorite courses have been Augusta National Golf Course in Georgia, known for the Masters Tournament; and Cypress Point Club in California. During North American travels, the Kratinas have been able to play courses in Canada and Mexico. During travel abroad over the years, they’ve managed to get to courses in Australia, Ireland, and—of course—Scotland.
“Our travel pals are all golfers, and most of the trips we take are to a course somewhere,” Kratina said.
Kratina’s favorite course ever? She’s loyal to her home club.
“OCC feels like an old friend,” she said. “I’ve made a lot of great memories with friends and family, and that would include the staff out there, who also feel like family.”
She’s especially proud that OCC was the site of the 2021 U.S. Senior Open in July and also in 2013.
“We helped work it the first time, but this time we just watched,” she said.
“It was wonderful.”
Kratina is now teaching her grandchildren to golf. Wade is also passing along the love of golf; his 6-year-old granddaughter received a set of golf clubs for her birthday this summer and is eager to get on the course with her grandfather. She’s part of the fourth generation of golfers in his family.
“My dad gave me a golf club when I was 7,” Wade said. “At 7, I was already walking around the golf course with my father. It’s a game that you can be engaged with your entire life.”
“I am so very thankful for so many things in life, and golf would be right at the top of my list. It’s afforded my husband and me great friends, good exercise, great travel, and wonderful memories,” Kratina said.
Visit omahacc.org for more information on this golf course.
This article originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.