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JONES: Yes, golf can save your life

Sherwood Park's Bob MacDermott says golf was the inspiration that saved his life after becoming a double amputee from being struck by high voltage in 1987.
Sherwood Park's Bob MacDermott says golf was the inspiration that saved his life after becoming a double amputee from being struck by high voltage in 1987.

In the hours since the announcement that golf courses would be allowed to open this weekend to lead off Stage 1 of the COVID-19 Alberta Re-launch Plan, how often have you heard the following words?

“After being self-isolated at home all these weeks, this is going to save my life.”

You won’t hear those words from Bob MacDermott, as he returns to the links this weekend.

“Golf already saved my life,” said the double amputee, who qualifies as one of the world’s most inspiring sports stories, much less golf stories.

In a much more dramatic way, he can relate.

“The main thing right now is getting out and putting your mind on something other than this silent killer that’s trying to take us all out,” said MacDermott. “People have been staying home and wondering if they were going to be able to play golf for another few months or maybe even all year.

“With the mental health and well-being that I’ve already been through, I know better than most how much it meant to me,” said the Sherwood Park golfer, who went from being electrocuted to surviving an ambulance crash on the way to the hospital.

MacDermott miraculously recovered and, thanks to golf, was inspired to go on to take college courses to eventually earn a position with the Province of Alberta as an instructor and manager in the field of mental and physical therapy.

“If you have hope and something you can look forward to, it can help you. When you’re cooped up and held in prison in your own home as long as we have been and are obviously going to have to continue to be, it’s nice to get out and play a game of golf.

“It definitely saved my life. It got me off the couch and gave me something to strive for and become better. To actually think I could get out and play again was an inspiration to keep my sanity.”

MacDermott wasn’t dealing with a virus on Aug. 23, 1987.

“I was cultivating fields for my father near Kindersley, Sask. I hit a high voltage power line and in a moment of anger and disgust I got off the tractor and was hit by 14,500 volts of electricity.

“They got me into an ambulance and were sending me to hospital in Saskatoon. That’s where we blew two tires in the ambulance and it rolled. During one of the rolls the back doors opened up and pitched me out of the back end of the ambulance into a stubble field.”

MacDermott lost his left leg, left arm and right thumb.

Being able to return to the golf course this weekend during the coronavirus pandemic is not saving his life. That had already happened.

“Literally, I say golf saved my life because it gave me a passion and desire to want to get up and get out and do something. It was my light at the end of the tunnel. The game itself gives so much back in so many ways, how can you not love it? In an entirely different way, I can relate to so many people and the way they feel this weekend.”

MacDermott has won the Belvedere Golf and Country Club championship 10 times and holds the course record with a 65 set in 2003.

Now in retirement, for the past five year’s he has also worked as a starter and course marshal at the Northern Bear Golf Course. MacDermott has frequently represented Canada in disabled competitions internationally.

“It was in the burn unit of Saskatoon’s University hospital as soon as I had my wits about me and knew that I was going to live after going through all the burn surgeries and skin grafting. One day, a physiotherapist came in and told me there were devices I could use to go with the artificial limbs that would allow me to play again. That’s what did it for me. I never lost a year of golf.

“The first time I started playing after returning to work as a drilling consultant with Husky Oil in Lloydminster, I think I shot 89 over nine holes coming back off a seven handicap. I was devastated. But it all came back because I was committed, because of a love for the game.”

MacDermott says golf is the perfect sport to be leading the way out of this as some of the 300 courses in the province were allowed to open this weekend.

And he has a message for those who take to the courses.

“I think we all have to remind ourselves that there are a lot of aspects to the game that we pride ourselves on — the etiquette and the behaviour. The key is going to be whether guys adhere to it.

“Now that we’re able to do it, I want to do it respectfully. I’m a big believer that we go back out there and respect the guidelines because you could be a carrier. There’s a lot about this that we don’t know as much as we’d like to.”

E-mail: gmoddejonge@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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