Mr. Stegall's memoirs are published and available through amazon.
I have a copy of that book and it is a very detailed look into his life and family. I especially loved his recollection of WW2. It had to be hard being that tall... not easy to duck!
I thought I would close out this series in a couple of ways: writing about my regrets and telling a story about our greatest win.
When I read, "The Boy From Bear Swamp" it saddens me to see how many important things Stegall and I DID NOT talk about. He was always questioning me.... in my selfishness, I never thought to question him.
Tell me about the war and how you were wounded in combat?
Tell me more about being a husband and a dad.... what would you do differently?
What are your fears? How do you deal with them?
Take me to your childhood home...
Tell me what it was like to manage a team of mules?
Tell me more about your baseball days.....
How tragic that we never take the time to really talk to one another. Yes, we had some great talks along the way... but not even close to what it should have been like.
OUR BIGGEST WIN
One June after school has just let out, Mr. Stegall invited me to walk a few holes at Shoal Creek. On those days, we walked down to hole #5 and would get in about 7 or 8 holes depending on daylight. We carried light bags with just a few clubs.
We got to the last hole and I made a putt for birdie and without thinking, I had played 7 or 8 holes to just 2 over par.
"Jay, we need to press this summer.... I think with work, you can break 80."
And so that summer, I practiced quite often and worked very hard on my game. I bought another wedge and began working on hitting fades and draws and working on things like knock down shots and getting more consistent yardages for each club.
And I still shot mid 80's all summer.
Part of the problem is that we set some parameters on the score: no mulligans, no gimme putts, play the ball down... if I was going to shoot in the 70's, it needed to be a legit score.
The harder I worked, the less it seemed to help. A huge part of golf is decision making, and I was woefully poor in that department.
Then the calendar started to become an issue.... Football practice was going to start on Aug. 1 and once football started, I would lose my game from a lack of attention.
Stegall took me to Coosa Pines twice on the last week of July. That course should be 'easy pickens'... but the level of perfection needed is difficult and you have to have some putts go in.
On July 30- I was down to two days.
I got to hole 18 and needed a bogey to shoot 79. I missed a 5 foot putt to shoot an even 80!
The very next day I came to the 18th hole and needed a double bogey to shoot a 79, I flubbed a chip and two putted for another 80!
I was devastated!
Not only was I out of time, the exposure of my mental weakness was embarrassing.
Stegall, was quiet but consoling.
We started 2-a-day football practice the next morning and I didn't touch my clubs for an entire week.
He called me that weekend....
"Jay, are you a winner or a quitter?"
"Well, Mr. Stegall, the jury is still out on that."
"Well get your bag, we are going back to Coosa Pines."
I hadn't even cleaned my clubs from the round last weekend.
But we went around the course, and I birdied the last 2 holes to shoot a 76!
He was way happier than me.... but I was jacked!
I went back to football practice, fired up about hitting my goal.
Midway through the season, I got the news.
Mr.Stegall had been diagnosed with bone cancer ... it was aggressive, and the prognosis was dire!
I wish I had a clear timeline of our interactions but I do remember our last time together.
I went to his home at Shoal Creek where he was in a hospital bed on hospice.
The cancer was cruel and had wasted his body... he was so thin! It seemed like only a few months earlier, his muscles were still ripped!
He grabbed my hand, and we prayed.
I don't remember any of the words that day.... I don't remember the funeral.
But it is hard to ever go to a golf course and not think of Mr. Stegall, every time the Master's comes on TV, I think of him. Every time I go past a cornfield.....
Just this year, I have driven by the Dillard house on the way to North Carolina and I actually played golf at Mountain View. It was my first visit there since 1999!
Covid kept us from sitting in the grill, but the memories flowed!
I can't wait to see him in heaven....
He is the GOAT...... the greatest of all time.
As I close, I want to encourage all of us to take up the baton and example of these men.
You don't have find to find a young redneck that needs refining.... you can simply keep loving and training children and grandchildren.
I was talking to a student not long ago, and she was enjoying teaching her grandmother how to use an ipad.... what a wonderful excuse to spend time together!
As a fishing coach, it thrills me to see boat captains who are grandfathers.
We have work to to until our final sun sets.... we are to point them to Jesus and there is nothing wrong in having some laughter and fun along the way!