Those of us who relish golf and never were capable of playing it in polite company love to listen to those who actually could play talk about those who really could play.

And when the conversation among those who could play involves those in their 60s, 70s and even older, the "really could plays" are reserved not for bombers off the tee but splendid shot-makers.

That's what was imagined sitting in an anteroom at the Edina Country Club last week, listening to lifelong golf devotees talking about rivals or acquaintances and saying in admiration:

"He really could play."

We're talking about the days with small-headed persimmon drivers, and a full complement of needed long irons, and fairway grass that could be closer to dirt.

"This was a few years back, and Gene Hansen was practicing," Jim Manthis said. "I asked him how his game was and he said, 'I can't hit it out of a bad lie.' "

That's a shot-maker. Doesn't complain about a bad lie; complains that he can't execute the shot.

The magnificent, mysterious Hansen was the impetus for this Minnesota golf nostalgia. We like round numbers in sportswriting, you know, and this weekend is the 100th playing of the state public links tournament, and the 60th anniversary of Hansen winning what was then Minnesota's triple crown of men's golf:

State Amateur, State Open and the Publinks.

There were a couple of additional facts that made it extraordinary: Hansen also had won the triple crown in 1961, and in 1962, he and his partner from Gross golf course, Chet Latawiec, another guy who really could play, won the first-ever Minnesota Four-Ball.

In reviewing Hansen's performance in those two dominating summers, it was noted that his No. 1 scare came in the quarterfinals of the State Amateur vs. Edina's Ted Stark.

Earlier this summer, I was given a heads-up that Edina was claiming a potential record for Minnesota's longest active club membership — 92 years, from birth until today, for Mr. Stark.

And so it came to be that Teddy was the guest of honor for a light lunch, with Henry Fiola, Gary Wert, Bill Homeyer and Bill Johnson from Edina, and Carson Herron from Wayzata Country Club in attendance to revel in Stark's longevity and fine memory.

Me: "Ted, I've read that you took Hansen to extra holes in the quarterfinals of the 1962 State Am."

Stark's eyes got big, he peered at me and said: "I missed a two-foot putt on 18 that would've finished him."

Only 60 years later, Teddy shook his head in dismay, held his hands two feet apart and said, "Like this."

Herron: "Why didn't he give it you, Teddy?"

Stark nodded and said: "Werness would've."

This was an inside joke about Bob Werness, a longtime Edina member and excellent player who died in 2009.

Stark is a former Minnesota Golf Association president, as well as serving his term as club president at Edina. Which brought up one of this group's favorite tales:

Teddy gets a call at home at 10:45 p.m. from a club member, full of liquor and railing about the quality of a steak served to him that night.

"Teddy rolled with it," Fiola said. "And then three nights later, at 1 a.m., he calls the guy at home and says, 'I would like to resume our conversation about your steak.' "

Stark could really play, although not likely to have a second chance to beat Hansen with a two-footer.

Manthis, a couple of years behind Hansen at Minneapolis Edison in the late '50s, retired after a long run as the pro at Midland Hills, said:

"Gene was top 10 all-time for talent in Minnesota golf. Maybe top five."

In addition to the 1962 wins, Hansen also played in the St. Paul Open. Legend has it, H.P. Skoglund, a Vikings partner, wanted to see Hansen against pros before sponsoring a try at the tour.

Steve Walters, retired pro at Gross, said: "The story is Gene asked if four 69s at Keller would convince Skoglund? He was told that might do it.

"Gene went 69, 69, 69, then was teamed with Gary Player in the last round, and shot 76. I asked him about that years much later and Gene said, 'I was playing with the best player in the world. I wanted to get out of his way.'

"That's Gene. Humble."

Hansen was a Gophers player for a time, with Herron as a teammate, then gave that up. He traveled some, came home and didn't play much tournament golf.

"We would get him out, and he'd play great," Herron said.

He's living in the Twin Cities. The phone rings and then nothing happens. By all accounts, a good guy, a bit of an enigma, and he could really play.