Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Henry Ford said that a friend is one who brings out the best in us. Friendship is a loosely used word – its meanings range from mere acquaintance to bonds so strong they defy words. I was witness one of the latter variety this last Sunday right here in Mount Pleasant.
The setting was the annual Special Olympics Golf Tournament hosted by Patriots Point Golf Links. It seems a crew was going to be shooting film for a documentary to air on the Golf Channel in December, and curiosity had me keen to attend. I met Lowell Thaler and Bob Lynch of the PGA setting up to film the event. They came to Mount Pleasant specifically because of a special relationship they had observed at the Special Olympics National Invitational Golf Tournament in New Jersey earlier this year.
The event was a three-round alternate shot event, where the Special Olympics athletes are teamed up with a pro as a partner. One of the teams consisted of our own Brad Parker, head golf pro at Patriots Point and Trampas Hoover, Special Olympics athlete. “We were very impressed with the interaction we witnessed between Brad and Trampas at the National Tournament “said Thaler. “We are here to document what it really means to be a golf pro - to actively reach out in the community and help others. In fact, we were so impressed we decided to come here and personally interview them both.”
Well, there is always more to any picture. It turns out that every Tuesday evening a dozen or so of the local Special Olympics Athletes show up at Patriots Point for golf lessons, dutifully herded there by a petite bundle of energy the athletes lovingly call “Mamma Bear.” “Mamma Bear” is Sherri Davis, a community organizer for the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department who has a fiery passion for the well-being of these athletes. “We have over a dozen sports that they are actively engaged in locally” says Davis. “Although they enjoy the sports, for them it is about the friends they make. I know they especially look forward to Tuesdays and the personal attention they get from Brad.”
Later I was able to talk with Parker about the events in New Jersey and what the Special Olympics means to him. “The sport of golf brings out conversations on life issues” says Parker. “The game forces you to face your fears and learn to control your thoughts. And I assure you I get way more out of this than they do. They come and play with no expectations – they are as excited about a 20 yard shot as they are a 200 yard shot. They are open and honest about their feelings, and are always so enthused about the time they spend here. Their appreciation reminds me to stay grateful for my wife and our beautiful children, and this career that allows me these opportunities.”
When asked about how he felt about Parker, Special Olympics athlete Trampas said “He is my best friend in the whole world.” What makes him your best friend in the whole world? asked the interviewer. “He tells me when I am doing things wrong. He shows me how to do them right. He always answers my questions. He works every day and he has a family,” enthusiastically replies Trampas.
Later, as the waning afternoon sun’s rays shimmer silver bands across the harbor, I sit and watch Sherri bustling about making sure everyone has what they need and Brad patiently helping each athlete fine-tune their technique. And I find a bit of gratitude of my own – gratitude that we in Mount Pleasant are blessed with many who give so unselfishly of themselves.
I was told the footage from New Jersey showed Trampas hit a great shot out of a difficult bunker on the last hole of the last round of the tournament to win the silver medal for Mount Pleasant. I was told they were hugging and weeping on the 18th green as the PGA’s cameras rolled. I have a feeling that when the show airs, Brad and Trampas will bring home the gold in the hearts of America.
David Emch is a Mount Pleasant writer and photographer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.