Saturday, June 20, 2009

Holiday spurs thoughts of golfing with father

For all of you dads out there, this weekend is the time when family members say thanks for everything you do all year.
As fathers, we know that every day is actually Father’s Day, right? It is a never-ending job, no matter your stage in life.
I knew that this column was coming up; and believe it or not, it’s been one of my toughest to write. There are so many compelling stories out there involving relationships between fathers and their children. Where do you start? Every dad’s story is the most important story to him and his own kids.
Jim Bishop was my father. He was a barber. Bishop’s Barbershop was established in 1935 at 17th and Smead streets in Logans-port by my grandfather, Bill.
His son, Jim, joined him in the family business after graduating from Ball State Teachers College with a degree in elementary education. In the early 1950s, you could make more money cutting hair than you could teaching school. My dad retired in 1995; and after 60 years in the same location, Bishop’s Barbershop was no more.
I never thought about being a barber and working the family business. Quite honestly, my dad and I never even discussed the subject. That’s no knock on barbering; it just wasn’t me.
But Bishop’s Barbershop was a Logansport landmark. It was a hub for sports. The walls were covered with pictures of Logansport High School teams or individuals who had won North Central Conference championships, state championships or anything else significant.
It was a three-chair barbershop for many years. I remember that I loved to hang out and listen to those great conversations that are a fabric of barbershop lore. On busy days, my dad made me stand up so as not to take a seat from a paying customer.
Jim Bishop hated the Beatles. He had foresight and knew what they would do to hairstyles and how that would affect his business and the frequency of haircuts.
My dad was not a great athlete, probably not even a good one. But he was a great sports fan. He was a tremendous communicator; and with his sports knowledge and communication skills, he could have been a great broadcaster.
He loved to read, and his vocabulary coupled with his college education made him a master at creating controversy, which always kept the customers stimulated at the barbershop.
Many know I am an avid fan of the New York Yankees. People ask me, how did that happen?
Jim Bishop was a Yankee fan. We would listen to games on WCBS, a strong AM station from New York. I would eventually fall asleep or go to bed. When I awoke in the morning, he had taped the line score from the previous night’s game on my bedroom door. That was in 1961.
Forty-eight years later my passion for the Yankees has not diminished.
My dad never coached a team that I played on because his work hours would not allow it. However, he spent countless time after work hitting me ground balls or throwing for batting practice. Jim took pride in his yard but never complained about the bare spots in the back yard that were a result of neighborhood ball games.
He made sure I had a basketball goal in the alley behind our house. Jim graduated from Logansport High School, too. Make no mistake that he was really proud when I made the varsity basketball team my junior year of high school. He waited up for me every night after a game.
I know he didn’t always agree with the coaching, but he never criticized the coach. He and my grandfather had the same two seats in the Berry Bowl from 1934 until it closed in 1974.
My dad was a vocal fan. He yelled at referees. He could get their attention and almost got tossed from a regional game at Marion in 1971. My mom still cringes about that.
I take full credit for getting my dad into golf, well, almost. He got me a job working at the Rolling Hills Par Three Golf Course in the summer of 1970. He said I needed to make more money than I was making from mowing yards.
Once I started playing golf at the par three, he joined me. He continued to play until the day he died.
Jim Bishop was a 20-handicapper. He had two holes-in-one in his lifetime. Interestingly, I recorded my first two aces in the same week that he did. There is no way to tell, but a father/son getting holes-in-one twice in the same week might make the Guinness Book of World Records.
My dad was the quintessential “wrist slitter” when it came to golf. We have all seen this type of golfer. A bad round today, never going to play the game again and calling friends later that night to set up tomorrow’s game.
My dad played nine holes of golf on the morning he died in September 2005. He worked in his yard that afternoon. Those were the two favorite pastimes for this 78-year old retired barber. That night he went to sleep and never woke up.
Jim would have said, “If you gotta go, that’s the way you want it.”
He owned his own golf cart, and I drove to Logansport a few weeks later to pick it up from Dykeman Park Municipal Golf Course. On the scorecard holder was a laminated cartoon from the comic strip “Hi and Lois.” In the cartoon, Hi has finished a round of golf and says to a friend, “I think I will give golf up.”
The friend responds, “Aw, c’mon, what will you do for fun?”
And Hi answers, “Start hammering nails in my head. It will probably be less painful.”
Jim Bishop used to say that being taken for granted was the ultimate compliment because that meant somebody had the confidence that you were going to get the job done.
Well, Dad, thanks for everything, even if it’s a little late.
Ted Bishop is director of golf for The Legends of Indiana Golf Course in Franklin and secretary for PGA of America.

Photo Caption: For all of you dads out there, this weekend is the time when family members say thanks for everything you do all year.
As fathers, we know that every day is actually Father’s Day, right? It is a never-ending job, no matter your stage in life.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Double amputee picks up game, earns PGA membership

You probably don’t know Don Vickery. I didn’t know him until recently.
Nevertheless, his story is one of the most inspirational that I have encountered in a long time.
Vickery is a 51-year-old military veteran. He served his country from 1976-83 and wound up in Augusta, Ga., to earn an education degree.
Vickery lived close to Fort Gordon in Augusta; and on a July day in 1989 he was walking his dog in a restricted area on the military base.
“I knew I shouldn’t have been there,” Vickery said this week from his home in Savannah, Ga. “Something blew off, and the next thing I knew I was in the hospital.
“I really don’t like talking about it, and when I do, it’s like I am telling a story about somebody else. I have tried to forget it.”
The consequences were severe. Vickery lost his right leg just below the knee, his left leg just above the knee and a portion of one of his hands. The accident left him in an amputee ward in Eisenhower Hospital at Fort Gordon.
“I was there with other amputees, and you get paired randomly with companies that fix legs,” Vickery said. “Ray Rice Jr. was the company representative that I dealt with. We immediately hit it off, and it turned out that his father was also an amputee who loved golf.”
Golf was the last thing on Vickery’s mind in 1989.
“When you have an accident like that, you have to relearn everything,” he said. “It took me a year before I could walk again.
“By 1992, I was getting around pretty well, and Ray encouraged me to try golf. I had never played before. I was a pretty good athlete, but I had played football and basketball.”
Rice and his understudy formed a solid friendship through golf, and as Vickery’s game improved, the two became competitive on the course.
“I can still remember the first par I ever made,” Vickery said. “It was Number 8 at Pointe South, a par-4 dogleg right, and I made a 10-footer for par.”
In 1993, Vickery got a job at a driving range working for another friend, Jackson Carswell.
“I worked the range, picked up balls and just watched people hit balls,” Vickery said. “Jackson taught me a lot about chipping and putting. He could chip it in a hat.
“A lot of people thought I was crazy for pursuing something they didn’t think I could do.”
In 1995, Vickery moved to Savannah and got a job working at the Sheraton Golf Club, which has since been sold and is now Wilmington Island Golf Club.
“This was a great course for me,” Vickery said. “The people welcomed me, and the course was relatively flat, which made it easy for me to play.
“I had a chance to work in the golf shop in late 1997 for Charlie Dobbertin, PGA Professional. The course got sold, and Patrick Richardson, PGA, became my new boss. He told me that he wanted me to be a PGA member.
“I didn’t think I could do it. The playing ability test was 36 holes in one day, and my legs just couldn’t take that. The PGA Board of Control granted me a waiver to take the PAT over two days. But still I knew it would be hard to meet the PGA playing standards.”
This spring, Don Vickery shot 78-75 at Wilmington Island to pass his playing ability test. He finished the third level of the PGA Professional Golf Management Program and will be elected to PGA membership. Vickery will be the first double amputee in the 93-year history of the PGA of America to become a member.
Keep in mind he had never played golf before his accident.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am to accomplish my PGA membership,” he said. “This is an organization of people who love what they do, and they promote golf to whoever will listen.
“Golf lends itself to everybody. It is a game of the people. Golf gave me my life back.”
His low round is 71. He hits his driver 240 yards and his 7-iron 158 yards. Vickery has all of the same issues with the golf swing that most of us have.
“My upper body carries my lower body,” he said. “I am a shoulder-and-arm swinger.
“Timing is everything for me. I try to let my shoulders rotate independently of my head. If I do that, I hit it good. If I let my head move left, I trap it a little.”
Vickery now teaches at Wilmington Island.
“People want my help with their swings,” he said. “I teach a lot, particularly juniors.
“Kids just want to whack it out there. They feed off of praise. With adults, their expectations usually exceed their ability,” he added with a laugh.
This summer, Vickery will make his second trip to Walter Reed Medical Center, where he will talk to people who have suffered similar circumstances.
“I try to encourage them to understand that there is a difference between difficulty and impossibility,” he said. “They need to grab life back. It takes hard work and perseverance.”
Vickery is a pioneer in his own right. Even in PGA of America circles, few of us knew that he had never played golf before he suffered his terrible accident.
It wouldn’t have been Vickery’s style to make a big deal out of
the magnitude of his accomplishment.
National media are now part of Vickery’s life, like it or not. Golf World highlighted his accomplishments last week. The Golf Channel is working on a segment, and his new association, The PGA of America, will welcome him with open arms.
“Like anything else, you get out of it what you put into it,” he said. “I am just a regular guy who has tried to fly under the radar. I guess I now have the chance to reach out to other people.”
Ted Bishop is director of golf for The Legends of Indiana Golf Course in Franklin and secretary for PGA of America.

Photo Caption: You probably don’t know Don Vickery. I didn’t know him until recently.
Nevertheless, his story is one of the most inspirational that I have encountered in a long time.