NAPLES — It's certainly great to be back in Southwest Florida. The last couple of weeks up north teaching, I sampled that cold Northeast air and some cold rain. It is sure nice to feel that warm Gulf breeze again.
Down here in paradise, we often lose perspective for the real world. Golf is a wonderful part of each of our worlds. It brings us so much joy. It often takes us to wonderful places, and introduces us to great people who often become dear friends. It also has the ability to teach us some very valuable life lessons. For me, golf has always had the ability to teach me so much outside the game.
Every so often in each of our lives, something rocks our world and put things back in perspective. I had such an event as my northern season at Friar's Head in New York came to an end just last week.
I have been at Friar's Head five seasons now, and although Friar's Head is a wonderful place with a membership of very successful New York city folks, it is built just on the outskirts of an eastern Long Island town called Riverhead. I know Riverhead fairly well. You see I went to high school there some 35 years ago.
I left for college and only returned five years ago to take my current position. I have grown to know the town differently as an adult. It is basically a blue-collar town filled with hard-working, middle-class folks chasing their dreams.
In town, on Main Street, is a wonderful little breakfast/lunch place called "The Star Confectionary." They make the best ham and cheese omelettes, as well as, the best milk shakes in America. I have become friendly with the owner, Anthony Meras.
I stop to see Anthony as often as I get the chance. We talk Yankees, New York Giants, and golf since he loves the sport as I do. During my last week up there, he asked if I could do him a favor. I said sure ... if I could.
He told me about a boy named Christopher, who is 9 years old and is a friend of his son. Christopher had been diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a pediatric bone cancer.
Anthony went on to tell me Christopher was not doing very well. His folks are hard-working people, and were taking him often 70-plus miles one way to Sloan Kettering in New York City for some not-so-nice treatments. Gas, tolls, hotel rooms in the city, meals — the expenses even before the medical bills were hefty to say the least.
Christopher was being a trooper, but clearly suffering both the effects of the disease as well as the treatments.
Anthony I said "what can I do?" Anthony told me Christopher loves golf. He asked me if he could bring him to see me at Friar's Head for a video lesson. I told Anthony I was leaving the following Monday for Florida, and asked if he could bring him before then. He asked how about Sunday? I quickly replied yes. He said he would bring him up late in the day, and I said that would be perfect. We could hang out and do it up big time for Christopher.
I looked forward to meeting this brave little boy as Sunday approached. On Sunday about 3 o'clock, I checked my phone for messages and saw Anthony had called me. I quickly returned the call. He told me they wouldn't be able to make it up. It seems Christopher had a treatment the day before and it had made him very ill.
Although only a friend of Christopher's family, Anthony's voice sounded like that of any parent with a young child. He was clearly very upset, and as we hung up I became very upset, if not sad myself. Before we finished our conversation, I told Anthony that the second I returned in the spring, I wanted to get together with Christopher. I pray that it is able to happen.
Christopher's family is faithful all will be OK for this courageous young man. Their financial burden has become enormous. If anyone out there can help, there has been a fund set up for Christopher's treatment.Checks can be made payable to:
Courage, Strength, and Faith for Christopher
Shoreham, NY 11786
Any amount will be of great help to this family. You know, right about now that wayward drive, that not-so-solid iron shot, or that missed short putt just don't really seem to matter all that much.
I pray Christopher will be my very first lesson in May. I thank each and everyone one of you in advance for any help you can provide.
Tom Patri gives lessons at the Quarry on Immokalee Road, and is at Friar's Head in New York from May-December. Patri is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher. Visit Patri's website at www.tompatri.com or email him at email@example.com.