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Golf: A great game, but so much more…

Sometimes the game of golf can mimic life, but on occasion it can actually transcend it.

By Tina Mickelson

I love hearing stories about how the game has acted as a platform for people to connect on a deeper level. One of my favorite golf stories is that of Doug Neary and his father, Al.

Al taught his son how to play golf when Doug was just 10 years old and through this wonderful game their bond grew. It was their favorite thing to do together.

In 2005, Al was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. Doug and Al kicked their “live life to the fullest” lifestyle up a notch. They already “seized the day” EVERY day, but they were not going to let one second of time together escape them.

Doug watched his father work hard his whole life in hopes of one day being able to relax and enjoy the fruits of his labor, only to be struck by…THIS. Sure, Al was very fulfilled by being able to provide for his family, send his kids to college, and he carved out a very nice life for himself. But he waited… he waited patiently to do something for HIMSELF. That time never really came. As a result of witnessing this and realizing life doesn’t allow you to wait, Doug decided to join Shady Canyon Golf Club, something he had originally planned to do when the time was “ideal.” If there is one thing we need to get through our thick skulls, it’s the fact that the time is never going to be “ideal.” Just do it.

Throughout the process of joining the club, Doug connected with many of the members, which provided an added and unexpected support during this difficult time. He forged fast friendships and once again, the game of golf provided that platform for a deeper connection.

“Doug and Al kicked their ‘live life to the fullest’ lifestyle up a notch. They already ‘seized the day’ EVERY day, but they were not going to let one second of time together escape them.”

Two days after becoming an official member of Shady Canyon Golf Club, Doug participated in the Club Gross Singles Championship. The club waived their strict “no ride-along” policy for Al and allowed him to join Doug in his golf cart for the round. Al was in the throws of chemotherapy and this was a nice diversion for him.

On the fifth hole of the day Doug made his first ever hole-in-one. Every golfer dreams of their first hole-in-one and Doug, being no different, would often imagine what it would be like. He never imagined it would be like THIS.  As he plucked the ball from the hole he explained to his playing partners that this was his first hole-in-one EVER and his father, who was weak and weary from the chemo and battling Pancreatic cancer, had just witnessed one of his greatest wishes. His playing partners’ faces softened while at the same time showed great excitement for him. As Doug turned around he realized his father had struggled his way out of the golf cart and walked over to the edge of the green. They hugged each other for what seemed like an eternity (a wonderful eternity) and it wasn’t until they reached the golf cart that they realized the flow of tears rolling down their faces.

This was more than a hole-in-one. This was a father and son sharing a MOMENT—a moment gifted to them through the game of golf.

Big Al passed away on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving in 2006. Doug needed to clear his head and the best way to do that was to return to the place they last shared their deepest connection. So 5 days after his father’s passing, Doug showed up at Shady Canyon hoping to simply play a round of golf to soften the grief for a moment while paying tribute to his father at the same time. Of course he forgot his clubs at home… sitting bedside while you watch your father slowly slip away will put your mind in quite a fog. The Head Pro loaned him his set of clubs and Doug was on his way.

On his first round back after such an emotional experience, Doug made another hole-in-one—his second of his life—playing with someone else’s set of clubs, while in an emotional hurricane. His two playing partners were aware of his situation. They quickly tried to calculate the odds and even the gruffest of men exclaimed, “That was your father! That was your father! He’s still with you!”  But Doug already knew that. Doug feels him every second of every day. He IS with him. But when Doug steps onto the golf course, not only is Big Al with him, but they are still sharing their bond through the game they both love so much.

Golf: A great game, but so much more…

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