... incentive for us cripples to try again
I presented myself for surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital for a stent to be put into my carotid artery in 2003. There was a bulge in my neck called a false embolism that had to be repaired lest it rupture. Surgery was performed and I was wheeled to my room, was given lunch and I don’t remember much else. The surgery had failed, I had a stroke and I was unconscious for about five days. Catherine and I had an agreement that we would not do heroics for either of us. We had no interest in being brought to life to live as a vegetable. That was our agreement. Catherine sat by my bed each day but I was not to be resuscitated. Amy, number six daughter, a nurse at Exeter New Hampshire Hospital, suggested that maybe a c-pap, forced oxygen, might work. The doctors agreed, this was done and, lo-and-behold, I awakened to everybody’s surprise.
I was a bit foggy and still am some six years later. My right arm was totally dead and my right leg did not have much feeling. The experience of being in MGH and Spaulding for two months and rehabilitation at home for about six months is too gruesome to think about. I did recover enough of my physical ability to try to play a little golf. I had been a member of a private golf club for several years and played golf three or four times each week. When younger I had about a twelve handicap that became a seventeen handicap just before my stroke. My efforts at golf were very disappointing. I could not even drive the ball into the fairway. If I had a handicap at all it was probably 45. This became just too frustrating for me so I resigned the Bellevue Golf Club.
In 2000 we had bought a condominium at the Towers, here in Melrose. The big five bedroom at 350 Washington Street became too big for us with all the kids gone. At the Towers I was sitting around licking my bruises when I would see this guy coming home with his golf cap, obviously, just having come from golf. I did not know this guy’s name but whenever I would see him we would chat about golf and I would wonder how he had played.
Catherine and I were sitting at Mount Hood Golf club having a cold drink after having played the ladies red markers for nine holes when this same guy came along. He said his name was Bob Christenson and he asked me why I was not playing golf with his group. I said my golf days were over. “I can’t hit a ball 100 yards,” I said. He said, “Who cares, there are a lot of guys playing here like that.” It turned out that Bob lived just around the corner a few doors down in 1-B from our condo in 1-F. Each time I met him he urged me to come to Mount Hood. He said his group played every Tuesday and Thursday, nine holes or eighteen. He also said the Mount Hood Golf course was a gem that has to be found out.
Here was enticement. Golf was a part of me that was hard to give up. As my brother-in-law, Jack used to say before he died, “Golf is a way of life.” I showed up one day at Mount Hood and Bob said he was glad to see me. He asked me about my handicap and I said it was 1000 or higher. Bob said he would start me off at three quota points. For nine holes you got one point for bogey, two points for par and three for birdie. It cost everybody six dollars or eight dollars if you wanted to play for birdies. Since birdies were out of my scope, I gave my six dollars. I was just happy to be here on this side of the grass.
On this day, I had a pretty good swing going. The first hole from the white tees, the tees that we play, is 465 yards, 13 handicap. This is a short par five with a brook right in front of the green. I got on the green in 4 and my putt just missed par. I had 6 for a bogey point. The second hole is also a short par four, 17 handicap. I managed another bogey for an another point. Now I had two points of my three required.
Things were looking pretty good at the moment. The third hole weas a par three, 5 handicap. This plays at 171 yards making it difficult for us feeble persons to get on in one. I had a bogey 4, another point making three. Now I was even and all the rest was gravy.
The fourth hole, par five is a brute of a hole at 516 yards, 1 handicap. This hole I might just as well have skipped as I had never got even a point there. I just bat the ball around till I got to 7 and picked my ball up and put it in my pocket.
You have to able to hit a ball over a mound at about 100 yards out on the fifth hole. This hole also is a short par four at 282 yards, 15 handicap. I got over the mound and made 5 for a bogey point. Now I am plus 1.
I did not get any points on the sixth hole, 342 yards, 9 handicap.
The next hole, the seventh, was a relatively long par three at 197 yards, 3 handicap. Most of us just hope for bogey and this is what I made. Now I was plus 2.
The eighth hole was a dogleg left, 344 yards, 11 handicap. You have to able to hit long enough to have a shot at the green. Some guys cut it right over the corner of the trees to put it close or on the green. I did not get any points on this one.
At 178 yards, 7 handicap, number nine, was another difficult par three for us cripples. I had another bogey making me plus 3 in all. I was elated! The next time we played Bob gave me $50. Wow! This is enough incentive for us cripples to take up the game again.
That was last year. Now we begin a second year and I have only played six or seven times because of the weather. My golf game all of a sudden stinks, and I do not know why. We played some golf in Venice, Florida for March. We would go out late afternoon with the men and women for nine holes. This was a group of seven or eight couples from Bellevue where we used to play. My habit was to go to hit balls a couple of times before our games. As a result, I had a pretty good swing. I had a 49 in Venice.
Unfortunately, the swing has gone and I don’t know where. The other day I played nine holes and did not have a single point. Minus 4 was my score where 4 is what I have to get. That is not close to plus three. Dick Mallon was my partner for many years at Bellevue. I called Dick the other day and asked for his help with my golf swing.
About 9:45AM on Monday, I drove to Bellevue to meet Dick Mallon as per our arrangement. Bellevue Golf Club dates back to 1899 and is one of the oldest private golf clubs, but has only nine holes. It is only a few blocks from Mount Hood Golf Club built in 1936 is eighteen holes. Bellevue is in the rich part of town and is often referred to as the Country Club area. As I parked my car, Dick came down with a golf cart and put my bag on it next to his. I had thought that we might just hit some balls to get an idea of my golf swing. Dick drove up to the first tee and surprised me saying, “We are going to play nine holes together to get an idea of what is wrong with your golf swing.” We played the nine holes and Dick was enormously helpful. Dick said my alignment was way off and I was not getting enough of a shoulder turn. As we finished, Dick suggested I take a seven or eight iron out to a range and try to develop a better shoulder turn.
I wanted to take us to lunch downtown but everything was closed this being Monday. We ended up at Liberty Bell for sandwiches.
Playing at Bellevue again after five years was a little strange but it made me realize, again, why I had quit playing there. It is just too long for me. But, then, it felt good to play with my old partner again.
The other day I went to Mount Hood to see if I had learned anything from Dick. My quota was three and I got three and two more. I did not win any money but I was thrilled with my effort.
July 3, 2009