Par for the course?

Published 1:03 pm Friday, June 25, 2010

COMMENTARYIts tough to surprise me anymore.

Ive spent a lifetime sizing up rooms and people, reading between the lines and looking for shades of gray in little white lies. It comes with the territory.

So, when a softball question is thrown up in the air, I am generally certain of getting a softball answer.

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Then, Bobbi Salmon reminded me that the story I find isnt always the one I set out to get.

So, why Tryon? I asked the former LPGA pro and noted golf instructor Tuesday afternoon at the Links OTryon.

She told me she had an uncle here. Easy enough. Then came the rest of a hardball answer:

I have a disease and came here to be closer to Durham where I get treatment, she said. I basically moved up here to die.

Salmon has systemic Scleroderma, a somewhat rare disease that causes the hardening of the skin and internal organs. No one really knows why some people get it and others dont. Its not genetic. Its not contagious. Theres no cure, and in the worst cases, it is fatal.

About 300,000 Americans have the disease, so Salmon calls it an orphan, meaning that it is truly no ones cause.

The drug companies arent very interested in developing a cure for it because so few people have (Scleroderma), she said. Theres not enough money in it.

But then, the conversation turns back to golf and to life and the way the two have worked hand in hand to fend off death for nine sometimes trying and painful years.

She helps to raise money for Scleroderma research and then returns to her old job, helping golfs forlorn work their way through the frustrations that come with loving a game that Mark Twain called, a good walk spoiled.

I used to want to win a teacher of the year award, Salmon said shrugging. But now, no. My reward is seeing a student improve. I get more satisfaction of hearing about one great shot a student hit than anything else.

And thats where Salmon has found a kind of peace on that good walk spoiled, on the greens and on the driving range.

She splits time between here and Palm Springs, Calif., where she teaches hundreds of lessons a week, fixing the golf games of the eternally hopeful and/or hopeless (and we know who we are), and Links OTryon where she maintains a busy but much more relaxed schedule.

Salmon said the game, the sunshine and the students have kept her own hopes from fading, even on the bad days.

She sought a place to die and ended up finding all kinds of reasons to live. There are so many misconceptions about the game, so many broken, confused swings and psyches to be fixed.

I really cant go anywhere, Salmon smiled. Ive got too many people depending on me to keep their golf games together. Or at least I like to think thats the way it is.

I believe her, the same way I know that golf is the least of all the things we can learn from her through this whole awful thing.