2003: Emotion spills for Julian, Edwards
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
For two men who are part of the professional golf family, it was a Masters awash in tears.
That’s the way it was at the annual Golf Writers Association of America awards dinner the eve of the competition, when former PGA Tour player Jeff Julian accepted the Ben Hogan Award.
And that’s the way it was three days later, when caddie Bruce Edwards completed what might be his final loop at the Masters.
Both men have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a fatal and incurable neuromuscular illness. Julian fought ALS and played in seven PGA Tour events last season, and thus was honored with the Hogan Award, given annually to an individual who has continued to be active in golf despite a physical handicap or serious illness.
Julian, a native of Portland, Maine, and a standout player in New England during the early 1990s, was diagnosed 18 months ago and has since lost his ability to speak. He uses a hand-held voice machine to communicate.
But Julian didn’t really need that device to communicate his feelings the night of the GWAA dinner, as he began convulsing in sobs almost as soon as his name was announced. Then he walked to the podium and began expressing his thanks and gratitude, fighting back tears all the way. And it wasn’t long before those in attendance were doing the same.
It wasn’t only the touching image of this dying man, however, that moved the audience. It also was the sight of the people sitting at Julian’s table and the way they reacted to the scene. When it became apparent that Julian was struggling to type words into his communication device, his wife Kimberly joined him at the podium and helped Jeff finish his speech, patiently translating the words he passed onto her via sign language.
Seated at the Julian table was Edwards, the longtime caddie for Tom Watson. Edwards learned in January that he has ALS, and it was obvious that watching Julian was giving him a frightening glimpse of his future.
Julian left town the next day – sadly, he was deprived a chance to see Augusta National when the gates were closed because of the first-round weather postponement, but Edwards stayed the first two rounds of the Masters, carrying Watson’s bag as he had so many times before. Outwardly, Edwards looked fine, but his speech has begun to slur, and there were concerns about his stamina when he and Watson had to go 30 holes Friday.
But Edwards made it through that day, and also through six holes Saturday. A pair of double bogeys, however, put his boss out of the tournament. Near the clubhouse, Edwards fell into the arms of Watson’s wife, Hilary, and for the first time this week seemed to be overcome with emotion. The two hugged and cried, then were joined by Edwards’ wife Marsha, who did the same.
Later, when the television cameras and crowds had gone away, Edwards sat quietly with Marsha on a bench near the front entrance of the clubhouse, a towel in his hand and tears welling in his eyes. Then Watson pulled up in a courtesy car.
“We’ll just have to carry on, old friend,” he said to Edwards.