SI Vault
Sarah Ballard
May 15, 1989
Thanks to his family and to senior golf, Al Geiberger has another chance at happiness
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May 15, 1989

Building A New Life

Thanks to his family and to senior golf, Al Geiberger has another chance at happiness

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Geiberger calls the years from 45 to 50 his incubation period. His financial salvation during this time was corporate outings at about $3,000 apiece. "They've seen a lot of pros through some tough times," says Geiberger.

Al and Carolyn met when he was a young pro and she was the 15-year-old daughter of a Montecito member. When they had their first date, in 1983, she was 35, divorced and living with her mother near Los Angeles. She had been married to another touring pro, Buddy Allin, but she had no children, nor was she sure she could. At 46, Al was separated and living in borrowed quarters in the San Fernando Valley, his wife having kept their Santa Barbara house. The romance foundered a couple of times, but, finally, in July 1985, when Al's divorce was final, they were married. That fall Carolyn became pregnant.

"Al was in shock," says Carolyn. "Flabbergasted," he says. "My friends said, 'What are you doing?' But I said, 'You just have to see Carolyn and how happy she is.' When Matthew was born, I tapped into the excitement too. The second time I was only flabbergasted for a moment. Appreciation of kids is so much greater later in life. Sometimes I look at parents in their 20's, and I wonder if they know what they've got there."

Geiberger's agent at the time, Margaret Leonard, arranged a loan to provide Al and Carolyn with the down payment for the house in Indian Wells. "Santa Barbara was so expensive, and there were ex-wives and ex-husbands all over town, so we wanted to get away," says Geiberger. "Also, Palm Springs has so many golf courses, and I was getting ready for the Senior tour."

That house has been sold. Carolyn never returned to it after Matthew died. Al went back twice, once to gather a few belongings the family would need in their rented apartment in Santa Barbara, the next time, in February, to pack everything else and put it in storage until the house in the Santa Ynez Valley was completed. Eight months have passed. Carolyn has found a therapist, who is helping her through the emotional minefield of her mourning.

After six weeks Geiberger went back to making a living. "In the beginning it was hard to play," he says. "Your mind can pick up on so many things. For a while I thought I could still feel Matt hanging onto my pants leg walking down the fairway."

Geiberger still goes over what he calls the "what ifs." What if he hadn't shown Matthew the pool a week earlier? What if Carolyn hadn't taken a little longer than usual getting ready? What if Bryan had seen Matthew on his way through the living room, or the latch had been set, or the neighbors had noticed, or Al hadn't been 3,000 miles away?

"You go through all those things and finally you realize that's what an accident is," says Geiberger. "I could see that a little quicker than Carolyn could."

Recently a writer asked Geiberger how he felt, and he surprised himself by answering that he felt lucky. "As soon as I said it I realized I felt better," says Geiberger. "I'm alive. If the growth had been malignant, I'd be gone. I've had divorces, but I have a lot of nice kids. I'm in golf at a time when there's a Senior tour. I still feel lucky."

The '89 season is in full swing, and Geiberger and partner Harold Henning combined to win the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf tournament, in Austin, Texas, two weeks ago. Geiberger is now seventh on the money list, with $112,865. At the new house, on the outskirts of the little town of Solvang, he and Carolyn talk more about the future than about the past. "Over there," said Al one day, pointing to a mound of brush, "will be my chipping and pitching green."

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