Still, his game would come around. It always had. He realized that he had been working on the wrong things. Dennis had seen the ascent of Tiger Woods and changed his swing, trying to find more length. Now he was returning to his old teacher and his old ways: short and straight, keep the ball in play, fairways and greens, Open-style golf. He would gain his distance through fitness and flexibility, not swing changes.
On the morning of Feb. 4, Clark, Vickie and Philip were in her hospital room watching Good Morning America when Clark called his trainer to tell him he wouldn't be coming in that morning so he could spend time with his wife and baby. Vickie urged him to go. She felt great. Besides, she said, it's rude to cancel a half hour before your scheduled workout. She was doing, she says, "the wife thing." That was about the last thing she remembers from that day.
As soon as Clark hung up his cell phone, Vickie's body went berserk. She turned blue, started foaming at the mouth and cried hysterically. Her head throbbed with pain so intense, Vickie says, that had she had a handgun, she would have used it on herself. (Before that she had no understanding of what would drive a person to suicide. At that moment she understood exactly.) Clark was screaming for nurses and doctors when Vickie's body suddenly went stiff. Her blood pressure shot up to 244 over 122. She went into a coma. A half-dozen doctors surrounded her, their purpose to keep her alive. It was an extreme and bizarre case of toxemia, they concluded, unlike anything they had ever seen. They were mystified.
After about a week she came out of her coma and was sent home, heavily medicated. Within 12 hours she was stricken again. Clark never left her side, didn't sleep, didn't eat, as Vickie remained mostly comatose. Her mother, Veva Vargas, joined the vigil. Vargas's ancestry is a mishmash—Spanish, Mexican, Native American—and she blends various cultures in her spiritual life. In the hospital she took a raw egg and held it to her daughter's head, an Indian custom, and prayed in Spanish. Curar de ojo, a healing eye, that was what the egg was. The mother concluded the ceremony by breaking the egg and emptying it into a glass of water.
After five days, with the same mystery with which the illness arrived, it departed. Vickie awoke to hear her husband sobbing in despair. Her first words were "Where's my baby?" Then Clark began sobbing with happiness. His wife, the mother of his boys, was alive. The illness and the recovery remain largely unexplained. Clark and Vickie have been living with changed lives and changed attitudes ever since.
Last Thursday morning Vickie and Clark's mother walked Southern Hills together. They didn't always get along, but now they do. Vickie was barefoot, carrying her sandals in her hands. Her mother-in-law, Miss Daisy, was bejeweled, blonde and skinny as a schoolgirl. Daisy Dennis and Vickie Dennis could not be more different. The daughter-in-law has a master's degree in bilingual education; she wrote her thesis in Spanish. The mother-in-law once sang under the name Daisy Dean. She was featured with the Ted Straeter Orchestra when it was the house band at the Plaza Hotel in New York City a half century ago. L.W. (Dub) Dennis, heard her sing at a Houston nightspot, the Cork Club, and asked for her hand in marriage that night.
"Now I'm a sportswoman," Daisy said early in their marriage. "What's your favorite sport?"
"Golf," the oilman said.
"Then golf will be our family sport," she replied.
They had five boys, all golfers. They kept up their membership at Colonial during good times and bad, and there were plenty of the latter. Everything Dub made he put back into the ground, a gambling oilman. The fourth boy, Clark, took the opposite tack. He has about every dollar he ever made, or near enough. The other day at Southern Hills he was having lunch with an old friend, Jesper Parnevik. "How do you live?" the high-living Swede wondered.