Near the end of
the phone call with my son, Eric, the topic turned to golf, as it often did.
"Do you think Olin is going to win?" he said, referring to Tour player
Olin Browne, who lives near us in South Florida. It was the morning of the
final round of the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. Father's Day. It was tough to
call, I said, because there were many good players in contention.
We haven't talked
The next day
Eric, then 14, was hospitalized after he became incoherent. He was diagnosed
with encephalitis, a rare, sometimes fatal swelling of the brain.
I spent the 2005
PGA Championship sitting in a hospital room in Miami, Eric lying in a coma,
hooked up to various machines. During the tournament, CBS's Jim Nantz paid
tribute to Eric on air and members of the golf writers' association signed a
flag from Baltusrol. In the months after Phil Mickelson's victory that flag
hung at Eric's bedside, a reminder of the life I have lived and all the friends
I have in golf.
For 20 years I've
covered the game for The Palm Beach Post, complaining like many sportswriters
about deadlines and editors, but always cherishing the job. It was something
that made Eric proud of me.
Over the last 14
months work and golf have taken a backseat to my son's ordeal. It has been as
dreadful as one might imagine, fighting through the trauma with my wife, Ava,
and our 17-year-old daughter, Alex, as Eric, an easygoing kid who played golf
and basketball but really loved paintball, battled the seizures brought on by
this awful disease. He spent the first four months in a coma, but since
regaining consciousness he's often been so sedated we still don't know what his
brain can process. Will Eric be able to see? To walk? To talk? To interact? To
have a life?
In March there
was a benefit for us at Old Palm in Palm Beach Gardens. Raymond and Maria Floyd
hosted. Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were there. So were Olin, Nick Price, JoAnne
Carner, Dottie Pepper, Bob Murphy, Ian Baker-Finch, Jesper Parnevik, Brett
Quigley, Tom Fazio and Bob Toski. Olin spoke about how Eric wasn't simply our
son, but everybody's son. The benefit came at a time when we really needed it,
both financially and spiritually.
The Post has been
unbelievably supportive, increasing Eric's insurance and giving me time to be
at his bedside. But it was time to return to work, and last week I was back on
the road, covering golf again and putting up the website for Eric's
Being back in the
press tent, talking to players, writing and doing my job has been cathartic and
uplifting. Everywhere I turned last week, whether it was to Price, Baker-Finch,
Jim (Bones) MacKay, PGA boss Joe Steranka or designer Rees Jones, people all
asked, "How's your son?"
Last Friday, I
got word from Eric's doctors that he can come home this week. Maybe Eric
figured that if I was back at work, it was time for him to return home. I can't
wait to see him and to one day tell him that while he didn't win the Open, Olin
Browne never stopped asking about him.