She has a new lease on life — and golf

Leslie Larson had a hole-in-one recently, the shot of her life.

There are two significant things about that sentence: One, it was an ace, her first, so that clearly is special; two, "her life," as in, she still has one.

Larson, who comes from a family of golfers, has, by her own admission, twice cheated the Grim Reaper. The first was in the mid-'90s, when she was diagnosed with and treated for cancer. The second was last year, when both she and her father survived harrowing heart episodes on successive days.

So when she knocked in her tee shot on the fifth hole at Grants Pass Golf Club on June 20 — she, her boyfriend Raymond Frey and two friends play 36 holes each summer solstice — it carried substantial meaning.

"We survived, life is good," says the 53-year-old Shady Cove resident, who missed last year's solstice outing because of her health. "It makes golf even better every time I go out. I'm a pretty happy girl at this point."

It was a year after her battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 1994 that Larson took up golf. She and Frey vacationed at his mother's timeshare at Eagle Crest Resort near Redmond. With a practice range nearby, they hit balls and learned the game. They practiced for more than two years before playing a course.

Now they partake regularly. She plays in the Ladies Twilight Golf Association at Stewart Meadows each Wednesday, then she and Frey play 18 on Thursdays.

One of those Thursdays turned out to be not very good for golf.

On a Wednesday in March 2007, Larson's father, Max, was on the driving range at Rogue Valley Country Club when he suffered a heart attack. The swift actions of several members saved Max's life, says his wife, Jody. Bob Cox and Steve Elbe administered CPR, she says, and Dave Rasmussen, a regular golf partner of Max's, summoned emergency help.

That night, Leslie stayed with her father at Rogue Valley Medical Center until midnight, then returned to her parents' Medford home, intent on visiting her father the next day. In the morning, Max was doing well and was taken off a ventilator.

Leslie wasn't feeling so good, however. She told her mother to go to the hospital and she'd catch up. But before Jody could leave, she heard her daughter call from the bedroom.

"Mom was making phone calls to tell people how dad was doing," says Leslie. "'Mom,' I yelled, 'I don't feel very good!' Then I passed out."

Paramedics arrived quickly and had to resuscitate Leslie "four or five times," she says, because of ventricular tachychardia. The condition speeds up the heart so much it can't fill ventricles adequately and blood isn't pumped normally through the body. Heart failure can follow.

As with her father's attack a day earlier, "it came out of the blue," she says.

Once an ambulance got Leslie to RVMC, she had to be revived about 20 more times. It got to where she'd feel herself losing consciousness and would announce it.

"The doctors said, 'Here she goes again,'" says Leslie, then they'd bring her back.

As it continued, Frey was summoned so he could say goodbye.

He arrived with her clubs in the car.

"They told him it's just not quitting, she's not going to make it," says Leslie.

But make it she did, and for about a week in the cardiac wing, Jody wore a path between two rooms. As difficult as the two days were on Max and Leslie, it was no picnic for the wife and mother.

"People say how'd you handle it," says Jody, who recently returned from competing in a golf tournament of her own in Vancouver, Wash. "I don't know how, but I did. Truthfully, I should have been a nervous wreck. I think when it was all over, it kind of hit, and that's when the tears began. It was a crazy time to cry because they both made it and they both are alive."

And they're back on the golf course.

Leslie has played in the LTGA for several years and has a handicap of about 21. Anyone who saw her hole-in-one might have thought it was lower.

"It was a pretty dang good swing," she says. "It wasn't picture perfect, but it was good."

And it came on her 32nd hole of the day. She, Frey and friends Mike Thompson and Joe Schacher use the solstice to play 18 in Medford, then 18 in Grants Pass.

Larson didn't see the ball go in the hole. She bent over to pick up her tee and heard the others' exclamations as it bounced into the cup.

"That was pretty fun," she says.

u

FUN WAS ALSO HAD by Jerry Anderson and Kevin Klabunde last weekend in the long-running George Huggins Memorial Chapman at Centennial Golf Club.

The winning twosome shot 136 to beat out Glen Clark and Jay Klemp by one stroke in the gross division. Brad Bills and Kelly Rasmussen were another two shots back.

It was the 34th edition of the tourney, which has a format that is considered by some to be the most taxing out there. Each player hits a drive, then they change balls for their second shots. From there they pick the best one and alternate turns until holing it out.

There's ample opportunity to let down and tick off your partner, especially when it's over two days and 36 holes, as is the Huggins.

"It's the single most pressure of any format you can play," says Anderson. "When you're playing by yourself, it's one thing to let yourself down. That's discouraging. But it's not the kind of pressure you have letting someone else down. When you win, it feels good because you must not have let the other guy down too much."

Anderson and Klabunde shot a 5-under-par 67 the first day, then made two bogeys and shot 69 on Day 2.

The key was they both consistently put their tee shots in play, allowing for two adequate shots to the green on par 4s.

With Klabunde on his side, says Anderson, it was hard to go wrong. He considers the former the best overall driver of the ball — distance and accuracy combined — in the area and also lauds his partner's putting prowess.

The team makeup was supposed to be different. Anderson was to play with David Boals and Klabunde with Dave Schoenmann, but the other two were unable to participate.

"Kevin and I play every Thursday and Saturday," says Anderson, "so we're comfortable with each other."

Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com

Share This Story