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Hospice patient, 92, takes another swing at the green

Henry Swanson celebrates his 92nd birthday by hitting some golf balls in the hitting bay at Golf Etc. in Brooksville on Thursday. Swanson, who is legally blind, said it was the best day he’s had in years.

LANCE ARAM ROTHSTEIN | Times

Henry Swanson celebrates his 92nd birthday by hitting some golf balls in the hitting bay at Golf Etc. in Brooksville on Thursday. Swanson, who is legally blind, said it was the best day he’s had in years.

SPRING HILL — Henry Swanson bent over, straining a bit to see the golf ball on the tee. "It's awful hard not to see (the ball),'' he observed.

With a surprisingly strong grip, he swung the club, as he's done untold thousands of times over the decades. The ball traveled roughly 40 yards into the computerized screen.

His next shot soared 95 yards. Better. The third shot fell off at 90 yards.

Keith Pursell adjusted Swanson's stance to the left and moved him nearer to the ball. He placed the club head next to the tee and told Swanson to swing away.

Swanson's swing resulted in a solid thwack, sure and true. "Right down the middle," Pursell said admiringly.

For Swanson, it was an exercise he's done virtually his entire life, since he began collecting balls and caddying at age 15 in Whitehall, Mich. But folks close to him realize that Thursday's outing may be one of the last times he gets to indulge in his life's passion.

Swanson turned 92 on Tuesday. As a gift, his caregivers from Hernando-Pasco Hospice arranged to take him from his home at Timber Pines Assisted Living Facility to Golf Etc. at Western Way Shopping Center.

"He always talks to his hospice nurse about his golfing days and especially likes to reminisce about how he hit a hole-in-one in the 1980s," said Jane Freeman, communications specialist with Hospice.

Nurse Joyce Pursell is married to Keith Pursell, who owns Golf Etc. The couple agreed that Swanson would enjoy one more shot at some golf balls in the shop's hitting bay.

At the end of the session, the Pursells presented Swanson with a small trophy, sporting a gold star and an engraving hailing Henry Swanson as a Star Golfer in Hernando County.

"Golf has been my life," said the retired electrical engineer. "Every time I found somebody better than me, I knew I needed help. I took lots of lessons."

He played many games in the 60s scoring range, he recalled.

And, of course, there was his hole-in-one. It came in the 1980s, a 150-yard drive with a 5-wood over a creek to an uphill green.

Swanson likes the long game. "The irons are hard," he said, mentioning a 60-degree lob wedge a friend crafted for him that simply hit the ball straight in the air and right back down to the tee.

After retirement, Swanson said, he played golf five days a week. He couldn't recall on Thursday just when he had to give up playing golf on a course.

He is now legally blind with only a narrow tunnel of vision, able to watch TV if he's about 6 inches from the screen. "I can always see the girls," he said with a smile.

Golf is no longer part of Swanson's daily regimen, but he maneuvers his walker around the Forest Oaks environs for two hours a day. He also whistles and plays the harmonica.

And he dances with his nurse's aide, Michelle McClusky. "He twirls me," she said. And he performs twirls himself.

"I'm 92,'' Swanson said, "and I'm still swinging."

Beth Gray can be reached at graybethn@earhtlink.net.

Hospice patient, 92, takes another swing at the green 10/04/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 7, 2008 11:36am]
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