Golf, perspective and the memories of 9/11

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In episode 156 of “Seinfeld”, George Costanza receives a 90-day severance package from the New York Yankees and declares the following three months, “The Summer of George.”

By the end of the show, he’s is in a hospital learning to walk again, lamenting what could have been.

The 2011 months of June, July and August were supposed to be “The Summer of Tim.” In April, Minors protagonist Tim Hegarty was “jacked.” He was moving back home to New York with his girlfriend, Amanda. He was going to be working more with his swing coach, David Glenz, who teaches out of New Jersey. He was excited to put into practice the lessons learned from his new mental coach. And he had a host of area events on familiar courses he was excited to play.

Along the way, he didn’t lose the ability to maneuver on two feet like Costanza, but he did lose a feel for his swing and lost some love for the game. It wasn’t “The Summer of Tim.”

It’s been 47 days since we last caught up with Hegarty. In June, during the week of the U.S. Open, he was working on Operation Left-to-Right, trying to hit nothing but a fade. Early enthusiasm ultimately gave way to frustration as he struggled with consistency and missed cuts. The low point came when he failed to qualify for the Metropolitan Open held at his home course of Sleepy Hollow.

“It’s been so bad,” Hegarty said Tuesday evening. “I’ve been kind of glad we haven’t talked for a while. It’s been an unbelievable struggle so I was glad there haven’t been any articles for people to read about how I’ve been doing.”

Changes have been made; Operation Left-to-Right has been scrapped. Hegarty has also started working with instructor Kevin Sprecher, out of Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Scarborough, N.Y.

“Trying to change my ball flight was a mess. Never in my life have I been a bad driver of the golf ball, but I became horrible with my driver,” said Hegarty, who places no blame on his friend and former coach. “It’s totally my fault. I’m the one who wasn’t able to hit the shots. Glenz is a great coach. We’ll probably work together again. I just needed to go back to what I know works for me.”

Despite the disappointment and the feeling of a summer lost – professionally speaking – Hegarty was upbeat as we talked. “Life is good,” he said. “I’m trying to keep an upbeat attitude, thinking: What you shoot on the scorecard doesn’t really matter.”

His dog encourages a positive frame of mind. He and Amanda recently got a 1-year-old lab-pit bull mix. “It’s nice to come home to people [and pets] who love you and don’t care if you shot 65 or 75,” Tim said.

Perspective is never far removed from Hegarty’s conscious. As the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001 near their 10th anniversary, he sees the images on the TV, in newspapers, on magazine covers, and in the recollections of his mind.

He was 18 that Tuesday, attending an economics class at Iona College in New Rochelle, about 10 miles from the World Trade Center.

“It was a picture-perfect day. I remember thinking that morning how beautiful of a day it was. I also remember my professor coming into class and saying, ‘America is under attack. School is asking that you get home or get somewhere safe,’” he recalled.

“It was really frantic. My old man was in the city, at the Met Life building. I tried getting in touch with my mother, but no one was home. I went to a friend’s house and watched it [on TV].”

Hegarty was born in New York. It lives inside him. Wherever he resides, New York is home. Three months prior to the acts of terrorism, he attended his high school senior prom at Windows of the World on the 104th floor of the North Tower. He was a union ironworker who tried in vain to assist at Ground Zero in the immediate recovery. He read the New York Times daily, the stories of those who perished, helping to keep their memories alive.

“It stays with you, even after all these years. I still go onto YouTube and watch videos,” he said. “Amanda and I will go to Ground Zero and there is still this intense feeling.”

Perspective is a harsh find. Its gain is usually accompanied by some level of pain. But it’s a necessity of life, allowing us to comprehend that which affects us isn’t always that afflicting. What you shoot on a scorecard doesn’t really matter, not when you’re talking about life’s importance.

But we each have a life to live, one to enjoy. And we can’t do the latter believing the things we do on a daily basis, those which have no affect on the world outside our myopic own, are insignificant.

Tim Hegarty is a professional golfer. A very good one. Shooting 65 or 75 might not make the world a better place, might not change the way he is perceived by those around him – human or canine – but those numbers do have meaning.

There was a time, during this oppressive summer, that Hegarty doubted his future in the game. Then he watched Keegan Bradley win the PGA Championship.

“I’ve played golf with him. He was a mini-tour guy, just like me,” Hegarty said. “I’ve played matches with him, and my buddy, Jesse Smith, and I beat him [and his partner] several times. Seeing him do that – I know how hard he works and how talented he is – but I feel it’s doable, what I’m trying to achieve.”

It’s been a tough few months for Hegarty. “The Summer of Tim” never materialized. But he’s not one to sulk, not one to feel sorry for himself. Quite the contrary. He’s an empathetic New Yorker who recognizes the struggles of others. He’s a wide-eyed 28-year-old who can breed confidence – not harbor jealousy – from the success of another. He’s a young man with perspective.

“I’ve got Q-School pre-qualifying coming up in Nebraska,” he said. “Sean [his brother] is going to be on my bag. I’ve got some good thoughts going through my mind.”