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Fun with Some New Friends

Chris Wilson learned a thing or two about Wii Golf from his new friend Crystal at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

June 2, 2010

By Laury Livsey, PGA TOUR Staff

COLUMBUS, Ohio—True story. A girl named Brenda was 11 years old digging in the dirt for worms in the mid-1970s at her home in Bexley, Ohio. OK, so maybe worm-digging wasn’t the traditional 11-year-old girl activity, but, hey, you find fun wherever you can. During the course of her quest for the wiggling inverterbrates, Brenda severely cut her hand and needed stitches. So Brenda’s mom put the youngster in the car, and they headed for Nationwide Children’s Hospital, just a few miles from their home.

Tuesday, exactly, well, let's just say a few years later, that same Brenda walked up the steps of the building on Children’s Drive, the same place where a doctor took care of her so many years ago. This time, she was with her husband, PGA TOUR player Mark Calcavecchia. Brenda gazed around the lobby as she entered the building, and she even paused to look at her hand, the one with no signs of a childhood mishap anywhere to be found.

“This is where they stitched up my hand,” she said, smiling at what shouldn’t have been a great memory but actually was, even if she got a big cut and didn’t find those worms.

Brenda, however, wasn’t the only one in the group who had been at the hospital before.

Dublin native Chris Wilson, a PGA TOUR rookie, received a sponsor’s invitation to play in the 2009 Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club, not far from his home. When tournament officials asked him to visit kids at the hospital prior to last year’s tournament, he gladly took the opportunity. With another exemption extended this year, Wilson reprised his role at the hospital.

“I really enjoyed coming here last year. I saw the smiles on the kids’ faces, and I heard they were excited for us to come back,” Wilson said. “I think the kids like having us, and I know I have a lot of fun.”

While Wilson is really just getting his career started, Mark Calcavecchia is in a bit of a transitional phase in his. He turns 50 in 10 days and is treating the Memorial Tournament this week as his TOUR valedictory. He plans to make his Champions Tour debut at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open in New York later this month.

“We’re so fortunate to play golf on the PGA TOUR. To visit a hospital like today or to do a children’s golf clinic, whatever we do, if we can make someone’s day a little better, then it’s a no-brainer,” he said. “Golf has given me a lot, and I have to give back. That’s part of the deal. Something like this goes on every week with players on TOUR. This week was my turn.”

The players’ hour-plus stay took place on the pediatric rehabilitation floor at the hospital, which opened its doors in 1892 with a six-member medical staff and 13 total employees. One-hundred-eighteen-years later, that hospital sits in the shadow of a 12-story, 750,000-square-foot construction project that will replace the current hospital when it’s completed in 2012. Nationwide Children’s Hospital is the primary pediatric health-care provider for 37 counties in and around the Buckeye State. It has 950 medical staff members and 6,800 additional employees who provide care for children whether their families have the ability to pay for their treatment or not. And it’s charitable contributions through the years from the Memorial Tournament that has, in part, allowed this growth to happen.

At the center of attention Tuesday, though, were patients, namely Alex, Tristan, Lexie and Crystal. They varied in age but were all excited for the visit. Calcavecchia helped the kids putt on a makeshift green using a vintage Bulls Eye putter the hospital provided—“This thing is a relic. I should give it to (Corey) Pavin. He’d love it.”—while Wilson tried Wii Golf for only the second time and realized his future isn’t in computerized golf.

“When I was playing my practice round today, there were no A and B buttons to hold,” he joked. “Crystal taught me a thing or two about Wii.”

Patients on the rehab floor are typically admitted after a brain or spinal-cord incident caused by sickness (spinal meningitis or encephalitis, for instance) or injury from car accidents, sports injuries, falls from bikes, ATVs or skateboard or gun accidents. “They come because of any way you can imagine,” said one hospital administrator of the patients.

Visits like Tuesday, if for no other reason, help brighten the day for kids in extremely difficult situations. Calcavecchia and Wilson, for their part, were glad to be there.

“This was a lot of fun. Two or three hours out of our day to come and visit the kids is nothing,” Wilson said.

“I hope everybody gets better,” Calcavecchia added. “When you come to a place like this hospital, I always get a newfound appreciation for the job these people do with the kids day in and day out. It’s very humbling.”

Brenda, her worm-digging long behind her, couldn’t agree more.


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