The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


August 8, 2010

Time may heal a lot of wounds, but it doesn’t heal them all

PIPESTEM — The Beckley Newspapers Memorial Tournament — the BNI, as it’s known to the golfers — had always been a happy time for Greg McGraw.

Competitive, sure.

After all, he’s won four of them.

But for McGraw, it was more about seeing old friends. He’s played in the same foursome forever with Jerry “Rock” Hickman, Dennis Vass and Billy Lane.

One of the more entertaining foursomes in the tournament, there’s no doubt about that.

And in the last few years, he enjoyed watching the youngsters play. And one of those was his son Ben.

Sadly, Ben was killed in an automobile accident in April 2009.

This year, the BNI Memorial is being played in Ben’s honor.

It’s been a tough year for McGraw. And this week has been one of the tougher ones for the golfer.

“The BNI is supposed to be a happy time,” McGraw said. “And we’re trying to have fun. But yes, it’s been hard. But to be able to come out and get out on the course with these guys, see the guys, it helps. But at the end of the day, you have to go home. And it is hard.”

McGraw carded a 1-over 73 at Pipestem Saturday, a pretty good round of golf. And considering the circumstances, it was good.

“Decent,” McGraw said, allowing himself to smile. “I’m happy with it.”

McGraw said that seeing members of Ben’s foursome Saturday — co-leader Brandon Reece (66) and Jeff Miller — was tough. Kelly Shumate, now the superintendent at The Greenbrier, didn’t enter this year after last week’s Greenbrier Classic required him being there on the grounds.

“I saw those guys today and that was tough,” McGraw said. “To really see all the young guys, the young golfers, is hard. I think Ben loved golf, and he loved to play in tournaments. And he was good. It makes you wonder what might have been.”

McGraw said one of the tougher days was when tournament director Pat Hanna brought him a medallion, with Ben’s likeness, which was given to all the golfers, for approval.

Unfortunately, McGraw has been down this road before, losing daughter Rachel several years ago.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that Rachel’s and my birthday was August 4,” McGraw said. “And Ben’s birthday was July 30. That made it a tough week. And then when we pulled in today I saw Ben’s picture (on a tournament sign).”

He had to head back to his car for a few minutes, which is understandable.

Nobody should have to go through what McGraw has.

Nobody understands that better than Hickman, who lost his brother Larry (who was honored similarly by the BNI two years ago) and then his son Larry two years ago.

“A lot of emotions,” McGraw said. “I know Larry was a previous honorary and being Jerry’s brother, we were good friends. And then for him to lose his son Larry. He was always out here with us. Larry was out here. And Ben. And it’s different now.

“And we’ve still got Grandview tomorrow and Glade Springs on Monday.”

McGraw played in the Pro-Am Wednesday at the Greenbrier Classic. His partner was PGA TOUR pro Erik Compton, a double heart transplant recipient.

“We were walking down the 11th fairway and he mentioned that someone had told him what happened to Ben,” McGraw said. “The rest of the round we had a good discussion about the organ donor program and the recipients.”

Ben’s organs, sadly, could not be used.

But McGraw will cherish the discussion he had with Compton.

As he will the outpouring of support he has received from the local golf community.

“All the phone calls and support, I appreciate it,” he said. “It means a lot. Ben loved golf and I know he would be proud of everything that’s going on. It helps.”

It doesn’t, however, make it go away.

Time may heal a lot of wounds, but it doesn’t heal them all.

If only it could.

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