BOB WEST ON GOLF: Walsh rebounds following stroke

Published 8:06 pm Tuesday, November 24, 2015

As one of the most accomplished golfers to ever tee it up in Southeast Texas, the only stroke Dennis Walsh ever thought much about was the next one he was going to make in a round likely to end with a sub-par score.

Healthy enough that he went 15 years without visiting a doctor, macho man Dennis basically considered himself bulletproof.

No more. The events of Tuesday, Nov. 3, changed that mindset forever.

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Walsh endured a stroke 100 times more devastating than a shank, tried to deny such a human frailty could be happening to him and ultimately needed the forceful intervention of good friend, Richard Briggs, to make a visit to the emergency room at Baptist Hospital.

The good news is that the 1979 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion’s stroke was apparently a minor one and he seems well on the road to recovery. A lasting lesson was learned, however, and it’s one that he’s eager to share with anyone willing to listen.

“Everybody needs to know the signs,” he says. “If you have weakness on your left side [either side, actually], your facial muscles are starting to sag, and/or you are slurring your speech, have somebody get you to an emergency room as quickly as possible. If they can treat you within the first seven hours, they can really minimize the damage.”

The 72-year-old Walsh didn’t make it to the ER until roughly 36 hours after the onset of his stroke, much too late for a clot buster shot to be administered. Fortunately for him, his stroke was of a mild enough nature that he’s already on the rebound. After two days in the hospital, he’s home, starting to feel frisky and anxious to begin physical therapy on Dec. 9.

“I’m really doing well,” he said. “My blood pressure is down, my heart rate is so low it’s scary. I guess I had as mild a stroke as a person could have. I think I could go play golf today, if I had to. I probably couldn’t break 100, but I believe I could play. I’m so fortunate Richard Briggs stepped up the way he did.”

Walsh vividly recalls the events of three weeks ago and how he stubbornly refused to acknowledge the obvious.

“I must have been having the stroke when I woke up,” he recalls. “My girlfriend, Candy Edwards, noticed I was slurring my words and I was staggering a little. She thought I might be having a stroke, but I dismissed what was happening, drank a cup of coffee and took off.

“A friend, Joe Castleman, was in my driveway. Joe had had a stroke, so I asked him about the symptoms. He talked about weakness on the left side. I wasn’t feeling that, so I just kind of blew off the notion and went out and mowed the grass.”

A routine task turned into somewhat of an ordeal. Walsh quickly became fatigued but attributed it to soft, wet ground, remained in denial and kept mowing. After completing the task and showering, he and Candy went to Luby’s to eat.

That too became problematic as symptoms began to worsen. He was having an issue walking because his left foot was not cooperating. Candy insisted he see a doctor. Dennis promised he would do so the next day.

Most doctor offices, however, are closed on Wednesday, so Walsh did what anybody who knows him would expect. He went to Babe Zaharias to play golf.

And that’s where he discovered for sure he was in deep trouble.

After teams were picked, he was unable to address his ball on the first tee.

“My left leg wouldn’t communicate with the rest of my body,” he said. “I couldn’t draw the club back with my left arm. I knew something was wrong. So I did the ‘smart’ thing. I got on the cart and rode while the other guys played.

“Occasionally, I would get off the cart and try to hit a shot. But I still couldn’t get the club back.”

Later, in the parking lot, Walsh was unable to remove the golf shoe from his left foot. With alarm bells now ringing in his head, he returned to the porch area behind the Zaharias clubhouse. Jimmy Fetters saw him struggling and asked what was wrong. He told Fetters he thought he might be having a stroke.

That’s when Briggs intervened.

“Richard said you are going to the hospital right now. No arguments. They took me to the ER at Baptist. In short order, I was triaged and it was determined I was having a stroke. The strange thing to me was I never had any pain. But I lost all of my left side.”

Tests during a 48-hour hospital stay confirmed a stroke. Walsh was given injections of Lovenox (a blood thinner) in his stomach, released on Friday night, told not to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds, saw his doctor the following Tuesday and slowly but surely began to regain his left side.

“For the first three or four days I didn’t seem to be getting better and that bothered me,” he said. “Finally, I got to where I could lift my left leg up. There has been gradual improvement ever since. Thanks to Richard Briggs and by the grace of God, I got off with a wake-up call. I’m very thankful and extremely lucky.”

“One thing that I hope comes out of this is awareness about strokes. People my age are in the risk area. The quicker you can get to an ER, the better your chances. If you are around somebody who looks to be having a stroke, do what Richard Briggs did. Be forceful. Don’t let them talk you out of helping.”

Beyond the obvious, there is another silver lining to this story. The chance for all you Southeast Texas golfers who have been losing money to Dennis for the last 50 years or so have a chance to start getting even. It’s going to be a while before he can play to his scratch handicap, so double down on all bets. Show no mercy.


The Senior 50 Plus Game at Babe Zaharias was played in a best two ball format. On the front nine, the team of Benny Sharpe, Rick Pritchett, Don MacNeal and Dan Flood won with minus-2.

The foursome of Richard Briggs, Butch Cross, Cap Hollier and Pete Reobroi won the back with minus 5. …

The Senior Game at The Babe was played in a best three ball format, with the team of Terry Jones, Rodney Christman, Mark Petry and Jobie Irvine winning the front with plus 2. On the back, the foursome of Johnny Page, Ed Hetzel, Roger Baumer and Ralph Childress won with plus-6. Closest to the pin winners were Petry (No. 2), Adam Noel (No. 7), Charles Leard (No. 12) and Bob Byerly (No. 15). …

The Babe Zaharias DogFight ended in a four-way tie. Finishing with 12 points were teams captained by Pritchett, Raymond Darbonne, Noel and Dillard Darbonne. Closest to the pin winners were MacNeal (No. 2), Charlie Scott (No. 7), Tom LeTourneau (No. 12) and J. Thompson (No. 15).

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