Monday, May 16, 2011


It was a spectacular afternoon in May of 2008. The sky was a perfect shade of blue, void of
any clouds. The air was crisp, clean, and  intoxicating, thanks to the cool breeze off the Long
Island sound  which intersected with the fragrance from the Augusta-like flowers that lined
the walking paths at the Westchester Country Club.

My Dad and I had made the 500-yard trek from the driving range to the first tee a million
times before. As a child, I used to be in awe of my hero hitting balls on the range, before walking down this  path as he held my hand, ensuring both a priceless moment and his tee time.

But this day would be different, unlike any other my father and I had experienced during our
time together. The effects of Alzheimer's disease, had stolen some of his memory and his
ability to play really good golf. However, the disease couldn't touch his love for the game or
chip away at his happiness. Nothing could. His will was as strong as a blue ox, his desire as impenetrable as Fort Knox.

But my father could no longer find his way from the driving range to the first tee without some
help.  On this day, I was holding his hand, leading him to the first tee, realizing this was a moment that was priceless and to be cherished. The look on his face, mirrored the the one I must've
had as a child going to play golf for the very first time. Excitement danced in his eyes, a mile-
wide grin was splashed across his face.

That look vanished momentarily when we came to the fork-in-the road near the gateway to
golfing heaven. Westchester Country Club had two meticulously kept and challenging courses
for the adults and a par-3 course for the little kids. For nearly 30 years my Dad had teed it up
with me and his good friends on the "big boy courses", which had become his personal playground.

As a kid who didn't have two nickels to rub together growing up on the south side of Chicago,
I don't think my Dad could ever have imagined being a member at a club like this. He had nothing but a desire to give his family the things that he never had, and an undying belief that
he could be anything he wanted to be. It was through hard work and diligence that he got this opportunity and he would squeeze everything out of it that he possible could.

As we came to the fork in the golf roads, my dad saw many of his good friends and former
playing partners that he had known for more than three decades. There were plenty of laughs and meaningful hugs.In many ways, they were long good-byes, as my Dad and his friends
knew the end of a truly wonderful life was about to come to an end.

Instead of going down the path to one of the big boy courses, my Dad and I veered to the road
that led us to the "Little 9".  Although still in great physical shape, my Dad's game was no
longer suited for a course that was more than 7,200 yards long. We had no choice but to play
the kid's course. It was a par-3 layout where all the dad's took their kids  for their first round of
golf. It's where they taught their children how to play, while burning the memories into their
personal computer chips. It's where my Dad took me by the hand, showed me the direction
to hit the ball, and where a good walk was never spoiled.

On this day, I was teeing the ball up for my Dad, much like he had done for me forty years
earlier. I was showing him where to hit the ball and encouraging him, much like he had
encouraged me when I golfed for the very first time. After he'd hit the ball, I'd pick up
his clubs, then hold his hand as we walked to his ball for his next shot.

The moment wasn't lost on me. I remembered how much my Dad loved  taking me out for
a round of golf on this course before graduating to the big boy tracks. It was a special time for
him. He liked nothing more than to play golf with his son. He had never so much as played
catch with his father, much less takes swings on  a golf course. It was always priceless for
my Dad. And the memory floodgates started to open for me as we navigated our way
through the "Little 9".

My Dad and I had laughed so much over the years while we played  golf. We had  exchanged booming drives, traded barbs,argued like best friends sometimes do, thrown more than a few
clubs, and high-fived each other after good shots. I never realized it at  the time, but playing
golf with me  was one his favorite things to do. And I sadly discovered, this would be the final
time we'd ever play a round of golf together.

As our final nine holes progressed, there were plenty of laughs, bad shots, and a few thrown
clubs. My Dad was still very competitive and that Irish-fueled temper didn't leave with the part
of his memory hijacked by Alzheimer's. He loved to compete and even on this par-3 course,
he loved to score well. There were grounders,  flubs, and shanks, but I still encouraged Dad as
if he was on his way to a record finish.

We approached the final hole, hand-in-hand, which gave way to an arm around the shoulder,
then a wish-it-could last forever hug. I wanted my Dad to know that he was truly loved, as his
time on earth drew near. I wanted him to know that our bond could never be broken, no matter
what happened. We were best friends and  I wanted to make this last hole,the best one we'd
ever play.

The ninth hole was only 90 yards, and with a solid swing, my  Dad somehow, someway saw
his ball roll up to the edge of the green. We almost sprinted down the fairway, like young kids
on their way to a big Easter egg hunt. It was only a short distance to the hole, but  I really wanted
to make it last forever as we smiled, laughed, and  chuckled our way down the alley of luscious
green real estate.

Dad would chunk his second shot but it still trickled onto the  green, stopping about five feet
short of the hole. He lined-up his putt as he had done so many times before, studying it as if
there was big money on line, and a green jacket to be won. With a laser-like focus and his
tongue tightly wedged between his lips and teeth, a la Michael Jordan, Dad, who was always
a great putter, stroked the five-footer with surgeon-like precision. The ball seemed to roll
endlessly before clanking the iron at the bottom of the cup.

It was just a par for my Dad, but it might as well have been a Masters-winning birdie. We
celebrated as if he had won the biggest tournament of his life. The smile on his face was
genuine. The tear in his eye, priceless. We embraced like a pitcher and catcher do after
clinching a perfect game. This was our perfect game, our perfect moment, our perfect final

As we broke away from our hug,  I saw the smile on his face and the tear in his eye. The
only thing I could say was, "Dad, I love you. This  was great." He responded by saying,
"I love you, too."

My Dad passed away just over a week later on May 17, 2008. I have never played golf
on that course or at the club again. It's  hard to top the perfect final round.


  1. Paul- Thanks for sharing your "perfect game". Beautifully written and hits close to home. We're battling with Alzheimer's in our family now. Every moment counts. Hope you are well. Billy Jalbert

  2. I can't believe it has been two years. Our loss has been Heaven's gain, plus many laughs. Phil Kirk

  3. Paul, this is so well written. Loved reading it so emotional. Lyn (Tierney) Gustafson

  4. This was for sure the best gift you could have ever given your Mother on Father's Day. Well done my friend, well done.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.