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UNPLAYABLE LIES
Michael Bamberger
September 24, 2001
A GOLFING FAMILY COPES WITH A STAGGERING LOSS FOR THE SECOND TIME IN TWO YEARS
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September 24, 2001

Unplayable Lies

A GOLFING FAMILY COPES WITH A STAGGERING LOSS FOR THE SECOND TIME IN TWO YEARS

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A father was on the golf course, and his son was at work. The morning was crisp, bright, perfect. Twenty-two-year-old Davis G. Sezna Jr., known as Deeg, was working in the south tower, 2 World Trade Center. His father, Davis Sr., was playing at Pine Hill, a new public course in southern New Jersey, just down the road from Pine Valley.

"Dad," Deeg would sometimes ask, "do you think someday I'll be Pine Valley material?" Augusta National, Cypress Point, Seminole, Pine Valley. Those are the four sacred corners of the shawl that wraps private-club golf in the U.S. For many of its members, Pine Valley is the ultimate sanctuary. Davis Sezna, 48, is one of those members.

Deeg was employed by another Pine Valley member, Jimmy Dunne, a managing principal at Sandler O'Neill & Partners, a financial-services company. The father made the introduction, but from there the son was on his own. Dunne and Deeg played a round of golf together. Golf reveals a man; that's what Dunne believes. Davis Sr. does too. "Golf's a great interview," he says. Later Deeg came into the office for a sit-down meeting with Dunne and the firm's other principals. Deeg was wearing a suit. He was serious, energetic, respectful. He was offered a job.

"Can I start on May 14, Mr. Dunne?" Deeg asked. In other words, graduate from Vanderbilt on a Friday, take the weekend off, then begin work on Monday.

"No, you cannot," Dunne answered. "Take the summer off. Kiss a pretty girl. You don't have to call me Mr. Dunne, and you don't have to wear a suit."

Deeg took the summer off. He started work the day after Labor Day. Wore a suit every day. Called his boss Mr. Dunne. He will make it here doing something, Jimmy Dunne remembers thinking. Banker, trader, salesman, something. On Sept. 11, Deeg's sixth day on the job, he arrived for work a little after seven.

Deeg's father works in golf. He's an owner of a busy public course outside Philadelphia, Hartefeld National, the site of a Senior tour event in 1998 and '99. He's going into business with the owner of Pine Hill, which is why he was there on that beautiful Tuesday morning that so abruptly turned grim and gray. Somebody pulled him off the course when the first plane smashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. He was watching the terror unfold on TV when the second plane struck his son's building. "I knew Deeg was on the 104th floor," he says. "The plane hit, an hour passed, the building crumpled. A friend drove me home."

The Sezna house is in Delaware, in the rolling countryside outside Wilmington, near the Brandywine River, the pastoral land the Wyeths have been painting for three generations. The kitchen dates to the 17th century. The backyard is a long, sweeping hill, ending at a pond. The three Sezna boys would hit wedge shots and take divots out of that lawn all summer long. Gail Sezna, their mother, would look the other way. Her father-in-law was a superb golfer. Her husband was the 1973 Delaware Open champion. Her sons were being raised in the game as well.

"My dad used to say, 'A golfer is a gentleman,' " Davis Sr. says. "I raised my sons to understand that. The first time I brought Deeg to the course, he was five. As we left, he said, 'Was I a gentleman today, Daddy?' " He dabs his eyes with a napkin embossed with scallop shells.

This was last Thursday, two days after the attack. The father had spent the previous day in the detritus of the World Trade Center, searching for his son. Now he was in his backyard, in the "final innings of hope," as he put it. Friends were visiting. The men were golfers, members of Pine Valley, Seminole, Merion, all clubs to which the father belongs. Sezna also owns several popular restaurants in Delaware. He was pouring good wine and slicing aged cheddar. It only looked like a late-summer cocktail party. The chatter could not mask the sorrow. Tom Fazio, the course architect, telephoned. He's a Pine Valley member too.

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