Dick Harmon: 97-year-old Utah golfer still chasing dimpled ball

Published: Friday, May 17 2013 4:50 p.m. MDT

When Don was 57, he had a heart attack and underwent double bypass heart surgery. “He may be the oldest living bypass surgery survivor, at some 47 years," says his son J. He’s had a couple of other heart attacks.

"On his 90th birthday, he had a cardiac arrest, which isn’t a heart attack. We had been golfing on May 15 and it was really hot that day and he hadn’t had any water.”

When the father and son got home and Don changed clothes, he began shaking and fell to the floor. His family thought he was dead.

At the hospital, doctors told the family their father may not make it and they might consider funeral plans. J. and others stayed with him through the night. After taking a break, J. came into the hospital room and his father was sitting up asked what was going on. They told him he’d had a cardiac arrest.

“What happened? Beats me,” Don said. He repeated that minutes later, “What happened? Beats me?"

Don had a mini-stroke a few years ago but survived with no major problems. “He dances; he likes to play bottle pool; and has loved to hunt and fish. He’s served two LDS missions and goes to church every Sunday."

After his bypass surgery, a doctor friend told J. he ought to buy his then 57-year-old father some golf clubs.

“He could die out there,” said J.

“At least he would be having fun and that would be better than sitting home on the couch waiting to die,” said the doctor.

So J. went out and bought his father some clubs.

“He likes to play but really doesn’t like to compete because it gets him all nervous,” said J., who is 74.

The father and son like to explore for gold in Arizona. Don has invented his own gold trap and they’ve pulled out an ounce and a half of gold this past year or so.

But the real gold is already found in a long life lived well.

Golf, gold, dancing and tales of Butch Cassidy?

It doesn’t get any better than that.

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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