Around one small round table sit four friendly women enjoying
each other's company. Sara Hart, of Buffalo, New York was
sneaking occasional peeks through the large greenery-filled
window to see if her husband, Milton, of Team West New York,
was putting a good swing on a golf ball somewhere out there.
Milton received two lungs in 1991 but they failed almost
immediately because they had been damaged in transport.
He then fell into a drug-induced coma until he was able
to receive another set of lungs 16 days later.
Milton met Jack Arnold, also of Team West New York, while
preparing for the golf event prior to the 1998 Games. Jack's
wife, Janet, is also at the table, repeating many times
how fortunate both she and Jack have been. Though he needed
a kidney transplant in 1996, Janet says he's had "absolutely
no problems" since then. And of course they both know so
many others who have had so many difficulties with transplantation,
including both of Jack's brothers.
Next to Janet sits Mary Ann Smith, whose husband, Dennis,
of Team Indiana, received a heart transplant seven years
ago after living with a heart that had been functioning
at about 15% capacity since his massive heart attack in
1985. And on Mary Ann's left is Lorraine Morgan, of Pittsburgh,
whose husband, Rich, awoke in the middle of the night some
three and-a-half years ago complaining that he couldn't
breathe. When the emergency room resident saw how much fluid
Rich had in his lungs, he shocked Lorraine with the news
that he had never seen such a bad case of lung cancer. But
even after tests had determined that the fluid buildup was
due to kidney failure, the terms "acute renal failure,"
and then later, "end stage renal failure," were foreign
to her, and they frightened her and her family nearly to
Golf is an Addiction
Mary Ann says, "the doctors couldn't understand how [Dennis]
couldn't walk across the room, but he was playing golf several
days a week up to two days before his [heart] transplant."
Everyone one else laughs knowingly.
"Milton golfs and bowls all the time - there's no controlling
him," Sara happily explains, waving her hands in mock exasperation.
Lorraine says Rich played at least once or twice a week
even when enduring his daily dialysis treatments, and Janet
says Jack has been golfing ever since she can remember,
and that he stills golfs "whenever he possibly can."
Lorraine says Rich is a four handicap - that's nearly errorfree
golf - but she doesn't think he's having his best day. "I
saw him in the water and in the sand at least twice," she
Milton took up golf only after his transplant, and Sara
explains that he's a 21 handicap, but getting better. "He
used to be pathetic. A real duffer," she laughs. (This is
Milton's fifth Transplant Games, and so far he's collected
two silver and one bronze medal.)
All of these adoring wives are as thankful as they can
be for their husbands' continued vitality. But perhaps even
more than that, they're proud of them, and impressed with
their perseverance and positivity. "Dennis says he'd rather
play golf with me than with anyone else," Mary Ann says,
clearly pleased with his kindness. And then she repeats
his favorite golf saying: "It's better to be walking on
the green side than looking up at the roots."
Golf is a Social Game
Men: This afternoon's format is individual play, and foursomes
are composed randomly. But here are four guys thrown together
who are teasing and encouraging one another on the third
tee as if they've been playing together all their lives:
Bill D'Antoni, of Team Kentucky (kidney transplant), swinging
in a long, fluid motion; Leo Altovin, of Team Massachusetts
(kidney), wearing a jaunty straw cap; Philip Cordova, of
Team New Mexico (double lung), pulling out his trusty long
iron; and Glenn Steverman, of Team Florida (double lung),
leading the foursome in jokes.
Women: In another foursome, coincidences rule: Shelly Schank,
of Team Utah (kidney) and Ann Read, of South Texas (lung)
are playing together - as they did last year - and they've
joined with Illinois teammates and Games roommates Jill
Sederberg and Linda Willman (both of whom have had double
lung transplants) to complete their foursome.
Children: There's a putting contest going on over at the
16th green among 17 year old Steven Thorpe (Team Texas;
kidney transplant); 16 year old Nate Winger (Team Utah;
liver); 16 year old Chris Truxaw (Southern California; heart);
and 15 year old Andrew Williamson (Ohio; kidney). The teenagers
say the round has been hot but fun. Some of their moms and
dad are walking the course with them, and none of them disagreed.
Trick Shot: William Kearns of Team Wisconsin (kidney and
pancreas) is victimized by a horrendous lie late in his
round, but he seemed giddy about its opportunities. The
ball is lying flush against a tree, but there's a sliver
of available light where the ball might be slid toward the
"Watch this," he says. "I had one just like it a couple
of holes ago." When he is asked why he doesn't just turn
sideways and pop it back onto the fairway and take his chances
from there, he licks his lips, bends over his ball, and
says, "Gotta get practice making these difficult shots when
they come up."
Unfortunately, his efforts ended with the kind of thwacking
sound, if heard on a golf course, that is never mistaken
for anything else. The ball has rebounded squarely off another
tree and is even more precariously perched than the first
lie, but Kearns swiftly and successfully pushes that one
out towards the hole.
"I'm a 17 [handicap] but playing like a 30 today," he says
without whining as he drives toward the green in his cart.
Maybe he just can't perform under webcast pressure. Not
"Fore": John Reed of Team Eastern Missouri & Metro East,
who received a kidney transplant five years ago, is out
on the course today, somewhere. With a "shotgun" start (all
players start at the same time, on different holes), it's
hard to know where a player would be during the middle of
a round if you don't know where he started.
John's wife, Lana, and her father, Bob, as well as John's
mother and father, Dee and John, Sr., are lining the second
fairway hoping for their first sight of John. Lana's got
her video recorder poised. Suddenly, the sound of a whizzing
ball, the familiar thwack, and then, finally, "Fore!" "Does
that sound like John?" someone asked.
On This Course...
Part of the beauty, and the grandeur, and the allure of
golf is the course itself. Each one is unique, and their
differences must be taken into account every time the ball
is teed up. Only baseball is a rival - and distantly so
- in this regard. Every other sport is played on a court
or a field with standard dimensions. And Osprey Ridge/Eagle
Pines is no standard-issue golf course.
Long, sprawling traps recall sandy Caribbean beaches. Some
of them are even dotted with fluffy shrubs - which makes
for pretty views but ugly approach shots if a ball should
somehow land near one. Osprey nests loom above the course
while a mob of egrets rule on the ground. There are pine
trees everywhere - and where there are pines, of course,
there are pine needles. Marshes, or ponds, appear in ungainly
Intermittent forests of sometimes substantial thickness
provide shade for the winding and leisurely rides along
the cart paths. It is quite a distance from green to tee
in some cases, and the ride from one to the other is so
pleasant that one might even be able to forget the misfortunate
encountered on the last hole, enabling a fresh start on