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Dick Harmon: Former BYU football coach LaVell Edwards can still swing the clubs and swap jokes

Published: Monday, May 6 2013 4:50 p.m. MDT

PROVO — Less than six months after open-heart surgery, LaVell Edwards remains a big draw on the golf course.

On Monday at a Boy Scouts of America fundraiser at Riverside Country Club, Edwards' celebrity stood out everywhere he went, from tee box and green to post-round luncheon and a gathering for his former players.

And that’s how it should be.

Edwards, 82, underwent surgery around Christmas 2012 to repair a valve in his heart. While his healing has been slow, it has been positive. “I’ve lost a little weight, which is unexplained why, but other than that, I’ve been doing good,” said Edwards.

While Edwards’ golf game isn’t where he’d like it to be, he still has a sense of humor that is treasured.

Playing a scramble foursome with former players Scott Phillips and Blaine Fowler, the fourth person in the group was Spence Ellis from LDS Philanthropies. Edwards wasted little time teasing anyone who’d listen that Ellis was a good trade for Robbie Bosco, who usually finds himself as Edwards’ partner.

“It took us a few holes, worrying what we’d do without Robbie, but soon, we were glad he wasn’t here,” said Edwards. “Spence hits it farther and closer. Who needs Robbie?”

Edwards said he had someone come up to him the other day and said, “You know, you look just like LaVell Edwards. You look just like him. It’s remarkable the resemblance.” Then the guy went on his way.

Fowler, a TV color analyst, had a topper. He knows how it feels to be former Cougar quarterback Gifford Nielsen, who was just called to be a general authority during The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' April general conference. Fowler was at City Creek Center a few weeks ago, decked out in a suit coat, white shirt and tie, when a woman came up to him.

“Oh, my mom and I are here. So glad we saw you,” said the woman. “We are big BYU fans. We love BYU quarterbacks. My husband has a BYU room. I wish I had a pen and paper to get your autograph.”

Fowler smiled, said thank you, and moved on.

The woman called after him, “We’ll be praying for you, Elder Nielsen. We’ll be praying for you.”

Of course, Edwards couldn’t let Fowler get off so easy.

On the No. 7 tee box, Edwards turned to former defensive lineman Hans Olsen, whose group was behind his, and told Olsen he needed a new cart mate — Fowler — because he was talking his ear off on every hole.

Six holes later, I asked Edwards how it was playing with some of his former players. He loved it.

“One thing about playing with Blaine is you get an update on everything that happens. Then, you get a commentary on every update on everything that happens,” Edwards said, as folks at the tee laughed. “And then you get a few P.S.'s on the way back to the golf cart of things that happened.”

Talking football, Edwards said his old team is facing a very tough schedule this fall, but comparing it with schedules he faced is like talking apples and oranges because the game has changed.

“You have different offenses these days with a lot of teams going to the spread options," Edwards said. "Football today, the offenses do so many different things than they did before, but, by the same token, defenses are doing so much more. It’s a different ballgame.

“This is a very difficult schedule, no question, but it will be a challenge especially with a new staff on offense," Edwards continued. "Their quarterback could be something special if he keeps healthy. If they can get off to a good start and keep the quarterback healthy, they have a pretty good chance of settling in and having a good season.”

Edwards said he “feels pretty good” considering his surgery. “I get tired and I lost a lot of weight, some of it unintentional. I have no complaints. I’m just happy to be out here.”

When asked, Edwards said his birthday is the same day — Oct. 11 — as Steve Young.

“I’m the one that will be 83.”

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at dharmon@desnews.com.

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