MIDWAY — Golf is many things to many people. It has the power to lift, to provide, to raise money for charity, to create friendships, to forge bonds and to teach life lessons.
I’ve seen those things at work throughout this state for decades.
Friday, I encountered something so unique, so different at Wasatch Mountain State Park, I don’t recall anything like it in my years of following the sport.
It came packaged in a trio of fascinating women, all professional golfers, all onboard a charity called Eyes4zimbabwe. They had credentials. They had game. They all are Mormons who have enjoyed stellar pro careers.
This will seem a little corny, I know, but I’ve just got to say it.
These women possessed so much passion and love for the game and imparted it so quickly and easily it was astounding. They knocked it out of the park within seconds of introductions. Their ability to connect, to give lessons and tips on the run, to remember first names and all the rest of the little things that elevate and create positive energy at a golf event was remarkable.
The trio consisted of Zimbabwe native Reeve Nield, a coach and instructor on the European Ladies Tour who is the daughter of one of Zimbabwe's most famous rugby legends; South African native Laurette Maritz, a four-time collegiate All-American and one of the most decorated female players in her native country; and Norway native Cecilie Lundgreen, a former No. 1 women’s player and current European Tour star who's capable of driving the ball 300 yards.
I never knew any of these women existed before Friday. They do charity events all over the world, from Singapore and New York City to Holland and China.
Their stories could fill volumes, but the one that counts most is their work raising money and supplies to help bring corrective eye surgery to the needy in Zimbabwe. Their goal is to help 4,000 eyes a year and they recently helped with 184 surgeries, mostly cataract repairs, in three days.
Nield, a lifetime member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, stood in the parking lot discussing the charity with me and in 10 minutes brought tears to my eyes. She explained the fogged corneas of kids who’ve never held a pencil or book, who play with soccer balls made of canvas stuffed with weeds. She spoke of LDS charities kicking in four 4-by-40-foot storage containers filled with a supplement called Atmit, which, when given to the dying and malnourished, has lifted them off their feet and back into school in days.
On the course, I witnessed Nield, a much demanded teacher, break down in seconds golf swings, one after another, and then rebuild them again on sound technique.
Maritz, who is nicknamed Lolly, is this diminutive power plant with a golf club, who has made 11 holes-in-one. She is a dynamo around people. In 1988, she was the collegiate player of the year while competing for International University in San Diego and won her first professional tournament, the Spanish Open, and then added the Portuguese Open two weeks later. She had a 2 handicap at just age 17. She joined the LDS Church at the age of 13 and will be competing with Lundgren in the European Ladies Masters in London in two weeks.
Lundgreen was born in Sarpsborg, Norway. I kidded her that if the Vikings had raided Scotland and laid down their axes long enough to witness golf, they’d have more history in the game. At Florida Atlantic University, Lundgren was the Atlantic Sun Conference Golfer of the Year in 1994; she won the tournament as a freshman. She was the first FAU athlete to win these honors. She went on to be named the FAU Female Student-Athlete of the Year in 1997.
This past year the trio helped gather enough supplies to fill six shipping containers sent from Utah to Zimbabwe for their cause. Each is valued at $18,000.
The lives they’ve helped change are legions.
In 1996, Nield walked through the children’s ward at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Zimbabwe and met a 12-year-old girl who’d been blinded with bilateral cataracts for four years. The day after a 15-minute surgery the girl took off eye patches and could see.
Shortly after, Maritz and Nield were walking down the 18th fairway at Chapman Golf Club and came up with an idea to form a charity to raise money for more such surgeries. They got European Ladies Tour veterans to join in giving clinics and tournaments for the cause. Lundgren joined the cause and later converted to the LDS Church through contact with Nield and her family.
I’ve got to say this trio provided an amazing amount of golf knowledge in the fastest time I’ve ever witnessed. They gave hour lessons in 60 seconds. They individualized it to every player at the event who’d listen, posting themselves on different tee boxes.
Rain delayed the event, but as the skies emptied on carts and bags in the staging area, the trio quickly shepherded the group inside the clubhouse where they gave one of the best putting lessons you’d find anywhere.
Yes, it is a little cheesy of me, but I’ve got put it on the record.
I’ve never witnessed a more uplifting morning of golf than I did this day with these three miracle workers.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.