Member Cris Lamdin shares his inspiring story…

The Struggle of Playing Golf with Parkinson’s and Why We Need to Persevere

Words by Cris Lamdin

Written by Elizabeth Pawlowski

I want to start at the beginning. I have played golf for over 25 years. I am 72 years old. I have been married for 45 years. I have three beautiful children and five wonderful grandchildren. I spent 35 years at the same company, and I retired on April 1, 2019. I have always exercised. I work hard to meet any goal I set. Eight years ago I walked into the doctor’s office and got the startling diagnoses of Parkinson’s Disease.

During the 25 years of pre-Parkinson’s golf play, I was never great, but I enjoyed my afternoons filled with fun conversation, and the frustration of not playing as well as I wanted. I always knew tomorrow could be better. Playing golf was relaxing, irritating and socially stimulating all in one package. I loved being outside in the beauty of nature. I loved being with my friends and family. I loved the game.

Over the last couple of years, I have struggled immensely playing golf. It has been morale crushing to the point that I have, at times, wanted to give up on the game all together. My body is not as young, and due to my progressing Parkinson’s it has become very stiff. One of the basic tenants of any good golf swing is your ability to turn your torso and hips. This turn enables one to get distance with striking the ball; my body no longer allows me to swing or turn my torso. When I go to play, I can no longer get the distance I once was able too.

Not getting the distance off the tee does not seem like it would be defeating but now imagine playing the game of golf with a group of men. There are four of you playing. Your body’s age, inability to turn your hips and torso, and the slow rate of your swing make it virtually impossible to make it to the fairway from the men’s tee or even keep up with your friends. So, you have to concede that you will go last, because you alone need to play off the women’s tees.

Now that it’s your turn, you get up on the tee box and hit the ball straight down the middle of the fairway – oddly this is something that I struggled with more pre-Parkinson’s. The ball sits perfectly in the middle of the fairway, I should be happy with the placement; but, I can see that I am behind my friends and now I am playing catch-up. I work hard to get just 75 yards at a time, all while my friends are making conversation and playing forward. While it takes them 3 to 4 strokes to get to the green, it takes me 6 to 7. I am all by myself. For nine holes it plays out this way, only ending in me being exhausted, 16 strokes over par, and realizing I never participated in any conversation after the first tee.

So why do I continue to torture myself, breakdown my self-esteem, and play?

Because I am not going to let this disease called Parkinson win! I will not let it take away the beauty and challenges of life.

I will not let it take friendship and experiences away.

Recently, I felt Parkinson’s winning and I was losing. I decided not today and took a lesson with Mr. Billy (Head Instructor at the Spring Island Club). I forewarned him about my mental state, and when I arrived he allowed me to vent my frustrations and listened. He truly listened, and turned to me and said “I believe I have a solution to the swing problem. I have been doing some research on ways for people, such as yourself to improve your swing, so let’s give it a try”.

Mr. Billy told me to swing my club like a bat. He took me through a couple of strokes and I quickly realized I was able to hit the ball 35-55 yards longer. This is life changing. That will take not one but two strokes per hole off; giving my body the rest it so desperately needs but also, will allow me to enjoy conversations with my friends.

Mr. Billy also began to go through my clubs. He spoke to me about the fact people with Parkinson’s have difficulty with speed and torsion and I needed to adjust not only my swing but my clubs. We need to work on finding the right woods and hybrids with the correct shaft weight s that will allow me to maximize my new swing.

I left the golf range that afternoon with a little more bounce in my shaky step. Once again, feeling like this disease will not win, I have a plan.

A number of individuals who have played golf their whole life have given up playing due to Parkinson’s because their score/handicap is way too high and people don’t want to play at their pace. My response is you are giving up more than a game. You are letting this disease win, your letting it dictate your own life. Instead, adapt, enjoy this beautiful world one swing at a time, find the Mr. Billy’s of this world-the people who listen, don’t pity, and try to find solutions. Don’t quit, LIVE.

Read more in the June 2021 PGA Magazine articlehttps://editions.mydigitalpublication.com/publication/?m=61201&i=709297&p=50&ver=html5

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