TEMPLE TERRACE — "How about today for golf?"
It was a question Thomas Garrett had asked his wife every day for about a year. Usually the answer was "no" because Vicki Garrett, 68, was recovering from heart trouble and shingles.
On Wednesday, she felt well enough to return to "our course," as they call it. The Garretts have been members of Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club for 40 years.
She seemed to be playing well, Tom, 69, thought. And so was he, with four pars by the eighth hole.
As they returned from a green, they saw a man in red shorts. He was trying to shut his car trunk in haste, but when he saw the Garretts, he drove off. That's when they realized that the man had stolen Tom's golf bag.
Inside: $26,690 worth of clubs and jewelry.
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Tom Garrett built his dental practice by word of mouth. Before there were health care plans, people chose a dentist based on his honest work. Garrett felt affirmed that he ran a good practice, evidenced by hugs from clients at the grocery store.
He wore a $20,000 gold and diamond Rolex daily to remind himself of consistency and excellence. Vicki had picked it out.
"It was just a fine piece of workmanship," Tom said.
Vicki was his dental assistant when Tom opened his own practice in 1968. That year, they exchanged wedding rings.
Later, arthritis left his fingers thick and stiff, so his wife bought him a new ring about 15 years ago. It cost about $2,000 and had little diamonds that matched the original's. She also gave him a ring with a sapphire, his birthstone, and two diamonds.
"One diamond represented our only child, our daughter," Vicki said. "The other diamond represented me. It was something very unique and had a meaning to it."
Tom stowed the watch and the rings in his bag on Wednesday, as he had for years. It also held his credit cards, gloves and an assortment of clubs he had collected and regripped especially to fit him in his senior years. Some people chain and padlock their golf bags to their carts, but he felt safe on the course.
He wonders whether someone had seen him wearing the Rolex.
He told police the thief was a white man of average height and build with brown hair and red shorts. He drove away in a silver or light colored four-door sedan.
On Monday, the Garretts were in Orlando on a planned golf vacation. Tom brought along an old set of clubs from his attic.
Tom said he plans to wait a few months before filing a claim with his insurance company, which requires a $2,500 deductible.
Temple Terrace police say there are no suspects in the theft. They told Tom something might turn up at a pawn shop.
He'd like that, but he's realistic.
"I'm not expecting to see that stuff again," he said.
Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.