Sunday, October 18, 2015


On Friday, October 9th, I drove my little Pontiac G 6 down to Lansing and had dinner with Tom.  Mostly, we talked about golf. On Saturday, we were a two man team in the Walnut Hills Fall Invitational Tournament.

We teed off in a two man scramble format at ten AM on Saturday. Amidst many familiar faces and much fellowship, Tom and I played well – 73 gross, 66 net, earning a three way tie for first place in our flight.

We went to Saturday evening Mass at Saint Thomas, ran into some old friends and made some new ones. Then back to Tom’s for an early bedtime.
Sunday would be a two man best ball, and we both had to be sharp.

I learned a very important lessen that night: Never take a laxative before bedtime, especially when you are playing golf the next day. About 3 AM, scrambling out of bed in the dark, I fell against a bedside table and broke, or at least cracked, a rib on my left side.

Sunday morning was a time for decision. Should I just pack up and drive back to Harbor Springs? Should I go to Emergency at Sparrow Hospital and get an X-Ray? In either case, we would have to go over to Walnut Hills and get my golf clubs. So we went.

My clubs were already loaded on the cart with Tom’s. Just on a hunch, I pulled out the seven iron and took a couple of practice swings. Easy ones. Then I went down to the range and hit a couple of balls. Not bad. I hunted up Doctor Tim McKenna who was also playing in the event. He applied pressure on my side and asked me to breathe deeply. I asked if he thought I could play. His counsel: “If it hurts don’t do it.”

I told Tom I would give it a try, but didn’t know if I could finish the round. We agreed that I should get a second golf cart, so that if I decided to quit at any time, I could leave the course, and he could finish alone.

Our shotgun start was on the tenth hole, a long par four, that runs from the parking lot almost to the club entrance on Lake Lansing Road. After hitting a driver and two fairway woods, my ball was just off the green on the right. I skulled a chip shot and watched the ball roll over the elevated left side of the putting surface. 

Upset with my effort, I jumped into the golf cart, and drove quickly around the front of the green, and onto some rough about three feet left of the green.

I never saw the sand trap. The right front and rear wheels were in the rough. The left wheels went into the trap. It was deep. The face of the trap was at perhaps as much as six feet. I was thrown out of the cart and down into the sand, where I was pinned down by the overturned vehicle.

They say that at times like that, a person’s whole life flashes before their eyes. The only thought I recall having was a sense of  surprise that I was about to die in most unusual and morbidly comical circumstances.

I never lost consciousness. I remember calling for help. Shortly, Tom Jr., Robin Omer and his partner, Keith Froelich, were lifting the cart off of me, Someone called 911.

EMS arrived in an instantaneous eternity, and the men promptly did what they do so very well. Lifted from the sand on a stretcher, I was hustled into the ambulance and taken to Sparrow. Listening to the crisp, professional reports of the first responders to the emergency room, I began to understand why there were no sirens.

I spent the next four days as a guest of Sparrow hospital. Dr. Mike Clarke stopped by. He remembered seeing me there some years ago when I broke a rib trying to maneuver a heavy outdoor barbecue onto a raised deck. My daughter in law, Catherine, works at Sparrow. She made me feel very special. So did my daughter, Ellen.

I didn’t want to scare Polly; didn’t want her to drive down from Harbor Springs, alone and in a panic. I had Tom call her and hand me the phone. I tried to sound O.K. and assured her that I would be home the next day. I don’t think she believed me. Tom drove my Pontiac north and brought Polly back immediately in her car. I was glad to see her.

Sparrow did a thorough job, with scans and x-rays and monitors of all sorts.
The conclusion: no broken bones except the ribs from my Saturday night spill. No internal bleeding. Multiple contusions, abrasions and a deep puncture wound on the left foot.

Funny how the worst kind of bad luck can feel like the best kind of good luck. On the upside, Father Charlie Irvin came, brought Communion, heard my confession and administered the last sacraments. 

I may not be ready for golf for a while, but I feel like I am ready for some more of the wondrous gift of life. Even with the five inches of snow on the back deck. And even with the Wolverines in the lead, on offense, and ten seconds to play. There is always hope.


  1. We wish you good healing! I very much enjoy your writing and share your pieces often on my Facebook page. Prayers to you, Judge.

  2. Judge, hurry back. The Little Sisters Of The Poor need money ,and in you're current condition I think I could win a few $$$$.

  3. Heal quickly Tom and by the way Michigan LOST...I guess they never did want to win

  4. Tom
    Very sorry to hear of your recent accident(s) Thank God you are on the mend.. Your problems could have been a lot worse. .Your golf course episode brought back so memories of mine when you and I were playing the 5th hole together at Lake Jovita. when I flipped our golf cart after hitting a tree. Thank goodness you were not in it at the time. There always is a good side to what we initially think may be the end of the road when we experience what you have just gone through.. My recommendation for the future is, prior to playing golf in an important tournament, NEVER take a laxative.
    We hope to see you and Poly back in Florida soon.
    God Bless
    Jim & Bette Murphy.