The Father-Son tournaments will, for some, forever be tearful times of reminiscence. Fathers without sons, sons without fathers. This has, so sadly, always been an unbearable cost of war.
Husbands without wives, wives without husbands, too many left with the beauty of a setting sun but no late afternoon golf partner with whom to share it.
That great connector of people, that connector of generations, this sport called golf, is for many surviving family members the good in the good times remembered.
Susan McDermott honeymooned at Pebble Beach with husband Matt, a 34-year-old equity trader lost with hundreds of others from the Cantor Fitzgerald family. It was incredible, recalls Susan of their days at Pebble. Matt grew up as a caddie on Long Island, played New Jersey National to a four handicap and leaves behind two small children.
Sally Alameno laughs when asked if she was familiar with The Golf Channel. Are you kidding? Channel 69. Andrew watched it all the time! Thirty-seven years old, Andrew worked as a trader at Cantor Fitzgerald. A recent New York Times article on fallen fathers who were at-home heroes said of Andrew that he brushed the hair of his two year old daughters Barbie doll, played endless rounds of Monopoly Junior with his five year old son and skipped dinners with clients to hurry home to Westfield, NJ by six oclock. Andrew Alameno was also an amateur clubmaker, a hobby he pursued from the basement of his home. Hed just finished making a first set of clubs for his son. He loved golf, Sally said. And he was loved by all.
On September 11, Ken Eichele was an early starter in the qualifier for the USGA Mid-Amateur Championship at Bedford Country Club outside the city. He was even-par through 14 holes when he learned of the full weight of the attacks, which hit home particularly hard for him. Ken Eichle is a New York City fire chief. He was told of the news by a fellow New York City firefighter whod yet to tee off.
All the bridges into the city closed, there was no way at that moment that Ken could get to ground zero, though he badly wanted to be there to do his job. He finished his round in confusion, his mind racing and with no idea what hed ultimately scored. He rushed home, then to his station house in Manhattan on 85th between Lexington and Third. Nine of the 12 men from his house called to the site of the attacks perished. Ken got to ground zero later that night, some 12 hours after the attack. He worked 48 straight hours, pulling out just one live body. So exhausted was Ken that he admits to falling asleep behind the wheel of his car on the way home from a shift, luckily without serious injury.
Hes been to seven funerals, with three more in the next several days. There were scores of others, for friends hed met in his 28 years with the New York City Fire Department, that he could not attend.
As for that Mid-Am qualifier, it was scrapped early on September 11, the few completed rounds wiped off the books. It would be replayed in its entirety the next week. Eichele did not play. Obviously, there was much work to be done at ground zero, and too many friends and colleagues to bury. There was just no way I could play, he said.
The USGA learned of the situation. And happily, they extended a special invitation to Ken to participate in the national Mid-Amateur Championship either this year or next. Ken, grateful for the USGAs gesture, has decided that hell play next year.
He says that had he not been on a golf course he might have been among the legion of his brethren who were lost. Golf, he says, saved my life.
Bruce Schaulk was a New York City fireman. That was until he got trapped in a burning building. With severe injuries, Bruce was, in the parlance of the profession, put out of the job in 1987. He was 40, in the prime of his life. Now 54 and married with two children, Bruce Schalk is a golf professional in Brooklyn. He gives upwards of 60 lessons a week at Marine Park, a Robert Trent Jones course built in the early 1960s. If youre a resident, you can play for $21 weekdays, $24 on the weekend. In good years, they handle up to 90,000 rounds. I love teaching, says Schaulk. Thats why I got into it. Schaulk was giving a lesson when The World Trade Center, visible from the golf course, was attacked. Today, he admits that its been hard on us.
Were mourning the deaths of loved ones, of people we ate with, slept with, fought fires with, he says in a low tone, the hurt palpable. Part of your hearts been torn away and it will never be replaced. And along with the heartache comes anger. Its a very difficult time.
Some foursomes will never be whole again. Some fathers will never play golf with their sons again.
Some sons will never have that chance.
Perhaps this sport, which has always been such a powerful connector of people and generations, can also help to heal in the days and years ahead.