Game On 'Nursing Home Open' Championship Set for Sunday
BY KATHERINE SMITH
The pairing of the words Pinehurst and golf has existed since the town's foundation as a health resort in 1895.
Pinehurst is a mother of American golf, its elite grounds producing prodigies in U.S. Kids Golf and hosting the masters in the 2005 U.S. Open and the 2014 U.S. Opens (men's and women's).
Now the Sandhills will serve the elderly facet of our community with the first "Nursing Home U.S. Open" at Pine Needles Golf Resort's conference center Sunday, March 4, at 2 p.m.
The idea is the brainchild of Veronica Karaman of Karaman Ministries, and Chaplain Ken Rahal, of Christ Community Church. The two hope to lift the spirits of nursing home residents by championing the game of golf.
Karaman began putting at age 5 and won the first female athletic scholarship at Pittsburgh's Churchill Area High School. She went on to play at Duke University and in the 1989 U.S. Women's Open. A golf teacher, she became a life coach in 2005.
Rahal is the chaplain at Pinehurst Nursing Home, Manor Care and Carolina House.
He and Karaman decided to hold golf competitions among residents at Pinehurst Nursing Home and Manor Care and have the top four finalists from each compete at
the Pine Needles Championship. The top four from each will receive a "dinners for winners" with Rahal.
Pinehurst Nursing Home was humming with competition on Feb. 16, with eight competing residents stationed around the room at small golf "greens."
The artificial turf stretched from six- to 10-feet long, each decorated by its sponsor.
The chatter among the challengers and caddies calling out score numbers for each hole brightened the pouring rain right outside. But, Rahal says, "It becomes quiet when someone pars off, just like the real thing."
Karaman and Rahal explained that the only game rule was that no more than five putts could be made on each stretch, and then crowned each competitor with a white Srixon hat.
Harold Fowler happily exclaimed that his game was "on" because of his young lady caddie. Before coming to the nursing home, he served Moore County as an independent electrical contractor.
To him, the game of golf is about "being outside in the fresh air and the friends that you play with."
"I grew up in Southern Pines and had a good start," he says. "I caddied as a kid and golfed as an adult, so I think I'll probably win."
Fowler was indeed one of the top four, with a score of 22.
He needed a supporting arm to stand and swing at each of the holes, but he scored his first hole-in-one on the green named "Courage."
Fowler tied with Betty Ruth Garner. She gently touched everyone, from the orderly who said, "You win everything, Mrs. Betty," to Karaman who cheered for Garner during the tie breaker.
"I've never played any sort of golf before," she says. "But I like this."
Horace Hays showed his excitement with a boyish smile beneath his mountain-man beard. He had never played golf before either, and he looked pleased to have placed in the top four with a score of 25 as he broke into the bag of cookies that Rahal gave to everyone.
Nick Graffa has been at Pinehurst Nursing Home for five years. He scored the top score of 16, and says that he liked to "play just off the back steps."
Manor Care Nursing Home's light dining room was cleared for the nine turfs arranged as a circle in the center on Feb. 23.
The eight participating residents mingled among several more who came to watch and cheer. The back door ushered in the balmy 70 degree February weather and coordinator Kristin Galloway's burly black Lab, Spike.
An assistant leaned over to one of the players, Fred Mason, and asked "Hey, Tiger Woods, can I get your autograph?"
Mason laughed, but the name proved to fit, as unhurried and focused, Mason ended up as one of the top four with a score of 20.
Eugene Martin ended with a score of 28.
A North Carolina Cherokee with a halo of raven-colored hair and orange wolf shirt, Mary Boble says, "My favorite things to do are horseback riding and scuba diving, but I've never played golf before."
When her name was called as one of the top four with a score of 22, Boble gently raised her fist, her wide smile curving across her olive skin.
Warren Thomas put his hat on backward and moved through each turf with spunk.
"I worked for Pinehurst as a cook for 20 years," he says. "I could play golf anytime I wanted to, but I didn't take too much advantage of that. But I learned what it looks like."
In his blue plaid pajamas, Thomas scored five holes-in-one. He ended with the top score of 15 and said he's excited for the tournament and his plans to go back to his home for good afterward.
Karaman was looking for something to fill a void in her life.
"Golf alone was empty until I realized that I needed a deeper relationship with God," she says.
Pinehurst is now her sanctuary, a refuge after her mother, Mildred Karaman was given six months to live at age 85.
Karaman dedicated her energy into to teaching her mother how to play golf.
"Psalm 92: 12-14 was the verse I held to during this time," she says. "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree ... they will still bear fruit in old age.
"It was by this verse that I realized that a person is meant to live, and live fully, until they die."
The six months her mother was given became seven beautiful years.
"I once had a coach who would say, 'If you want the energy of youth, you have to do what you do, which is play,'" she says. "He was absolutely right. This gives people wholeness."
Ken Rahal grabbed hold of God because of his shortened life expectancy after five major surgeries and a failed pancreatic transplant.
"I'm not just the chaplain to these nursing homes," he says. "I spent two months at Manor Care, not sure if I was going to live. I am one of them."
Rahal was often visited by the previous chaplain, Larry Holt, and one day, cynically asked why he continued to visit him and hold Bible studies.
"He told me, 'Ken, everybody is God's somebody.' I'll never forget that," he says.
After he was released, Rahal continued to attend the Manor Care Bible studies until he felt pulled to accept the chaplain position himself.
Sponsors for the final tournament on March 4 are First Bank as title sponsor, Bill Smith Ford, Red River Transport, The Lunch Box that Rocks, Mac's Breakfast, Chriscoe's Auto, Goneau Dishner, Karaman Communications, American National Insurance Co., Roland and Yauger Attorneys, Southern Flooring, Betsy Spencer, Pine Needles Golf Resort, Jim Leach State Farm Insurance, Robert's Golf, Robert Wagler and Lowes.
"This event is to give and receive joy, movement and fun to people," Karaman says. "I can see it expanding to include more of the community when the U.S. Opens come in 2014."
For more information, email Veronica Karame at veronica@truechampion coaching.com.
Katherine Smith is a newsroom intern at The Pilot.
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