Harris Armstrong first noticed something was wrong when he hooked a couple drives. When youre 12 and youve broken 70 more than once and youre one of the best junior golfers in the country you just dont hook very many drives.
He got an MRI on October 8th, said his father, Jeff, a banker in the Tampa area. It was revealed there was a tumor in his spinal chord.
Through a mutual friend, Jeff brought Charles Howell III together with Harris.
From the first time I met Harris I could see that hes a young kid who loves golf, Howell said.
It was like a person youve known your whole life coming to your house, Harris countered. That was pretty cool.
Just as cool was Harris birthday surprise last Tuesday. He began with a visit to Annika Sorenstam at Reunion Resort near Orlando.
Harris asked two or three times this morning ya know Dad were in Orlando and Charles has to be back from Arizona so do you think well run into him? his dad explained.
Im like no, no, no and Im trying to keep the surprise.
And so the Armstrong family pulled up the back of the driving range at Isleworth for what Harris thought would be an interview with The Golf Channel. We said happy birthday with a new bag, golf balls and hats from Bridgestone. Moments later, Charles Howell appeared.
That was pretty cool when I turned around and he was right there, said Harris.
The pair spent an hour chipping and putting, Harris displaying uncanny touch despite limited use of his left arm. Howell took notice.
Ive been criticized for being overly mechanical at times and thats fair, Howell admitted. Its good for me to watch a kid just look at a putt or a chip and just hit it. To see the soft hands and natural ability is good for me.
Howells hoping his touch this coming week at Riviera is as deft as it was in winning there a year ago. This time, hell play with a bracelet that says Pray Strong, a token from Harris and his family. Harris faces a tough road, with months of chemo ahead.
It tore me apart, said Howell. I mean I know there are reasons for everything and I have faith but you just cant help but look and say its not fair. Its not fair to have a 12 year old kid whos a great kid with a great family and a love for golf to have to deal with this. I know there are reasons, but none that I can get my head around.
Root for Tiger to win the slam this year. Root for Phil to knock him down. Root for Zach to win another major or the U.S. to take The Ryder Cup. But above all, root as hard as youve ever rooted for a sweet as pie, red headed golfer named Harris Armstrong.
Email your thoughts to Rich Lerner