DAMON WEST — Bob West remembered for golf passion, so much more
Published 12:26 am Wednesday, August 2, 2023
For those of you who regularly read this column, you have likely heard by now that my father, Bob West, passed away on Friday, July 28 at M.D. Anderson, due to complications from Stage IV colon cancer.
He was 79 years old.
In honor of my father, I am going to sub-in for him and write his beloved Wednesday Golf Column. I cannot compare to his writing style, wit and prose, but I can offer you some insight into the legendary man he was through his favorite past-time: golf.
Golf was, by far, his favorite sport and he was happiest when he was on the links. His father taught him the game as a little boy, which he then passed the knowledge onto my brothers and I when we were boys as well. By 3 years old, we had golf clubs in our hands. Not the plastic kind, with the big club head but real clubs that were cut to our size and regripped.
Some of my oldest memories are of my mother and father with me in our backyard on Wentworth Avenue in Port Arthur, swinging a golf club at balls.
My older brother, Brandon, and I enjoyed golf; however, it was my little brother, Grayson, who “got the bug.” From a very young age, Grayson had a natural swing and a passion for the game.
Bob West finally found his forever golf partner, which over the course of three decades would have them traveling the country, playing in father-son tournaments. It was so much fun to watch them in their matching outfits, compete and bond over the centuries-old game.
It was through sports that my father taught us so many life-lessons, too. We learned how to win, how to lose, how to put in the work if we wanted to get better and, most importantly, how to be a good teammate. His emphasis was always on what we could put back into the stream of life.
His profession of being a sportswriter allowed us to meet the biggest athletes in the world and even, watch them compete regularly in person. Once he discovered which sport we each loved most, he made it a point to expose us to as much of it as possible. My brothers and I understood what a rare privilege it was to be tapped into the sports-world at that highest level.
However, it was always golf in which he would put the most emphasis. He knew that being able to play golf would put us in a position to one day build relationships in life and in business. He was correct, too, as I personally have learned more business and relationship building can get done in a round of four hours on the golf course than in months of phone calls, emails and texts.
Building and nurturing quality relationships was one of the greatest pieces of tactical life-wisdom my father imparted onto us. We had a front row seat to watch him leverage his sports relationships to benefit others, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for various causes in Southeast Texas.
It still blows my mind how many celebrities came to our little part of the world, through my father, for golf tournaments and Port Arthur News Homecoming Roasts.
After almost 50 years as a sportswriter and community leader, he retired from full-time writing in 2015 and began playing in the morning games at Babe Zaharias. It was that same year that I was released from prison. One of the first places my father brought me to was Zaharias, for a much-needed round of father-son golf.
If the Prodigal Son story was set on a golf course and not in the Bible, this would have been it. My father welcomed me home with open arms, got me a set of clubs, new golf shoes on my feet and proudly took me to the course to show all of his golfing buddies that his son had returned. I remember thinking how incredible this gesture was after all the mistakes I made that tarnished the name he gave me. He was showing me again, through his example, that a father’s love knows no bounds.
That first day back on the course, he brought me to see Mitch Duncan. Not having played golf in about a decade, I was in dire need of a lesson. The next person he introduced me to was Don MacNeil. Don was always his first pick to be a teammate in their morning golf games. My father loved Don like a brother.
It was on the ninth hole that I finally got the courage to ask my dad a question that had been dogging me since I was sentenced to life in prison in 2009.
“Dad, are mom and you, ok? I know I caused you both so much pain.”
When you make mistakes and go to prison, you take a lot of people with you. I locked my parents up with me for seven years because they spent almost every weekend in a prison visitation room at Stiles. They never let me go and were always there for me. Now that I was out on parole, and living with them, I had to face this existential question.
“Damon,” he said, pausing to choose his words because my father always chose his words carefully and thoughtfully. “If you can go out there and impact one kid with your story, and that one kid does not go down the wrong path, which will save a future victim from being created, save his family the pain you caused us, and save society the burden your crimes and incarceration imposed on it, then your mom and I will feel all the pain was worth it.”
That round of golf was cathartic for us both and also the catalyst for the life I am living today. He encouraged me and believed in me. Over the years, we would have great conversation over our rounds of golf. Today, I would give anything for one more round of golf with him.
We found out about his diagnosis two months ago on June 8. The cancer was so far progressed that he lived less than two months. What’s tragic about this is that it could have been detected with a regular colonoscopy every five years.
His last one was 12 years ago, but he quit going back. One of the reasons I’m writing this golf column for him today is to encourage everyone to get a colonoscopy and then get on a regular cycle of follow ups.
My father cannot get a mulligan on this one, but I know he would find value in death if his example spurred just one person to get checked, thus preventing another family to suffer the pain of losing a loved one to colon cancer.
He was a legend and a giant of a man. No doubt, he’s playing golf again with his father in Heaven.
His services will be on Sunday, August 6, at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church (2006 Nall Street, Port Neches, TX 77651). Visitation is 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. The service is from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Please join our family in a celebration of his life.
Friday 2 Ball Game
Front -2 (TIE)
Closest to Hole
Saturday 2 Ball
Monday 2 Ball
Closet to Hole
HOLE IN ONE
Hole 15 on 7/22/23
PW from 102 yards
Hole-7 on 7/18/23
Special thanks to Mitch Duncan for the help in preparing Chip Shots. Mitch, my father loved you like a son. Keep impacting the youth through golf, brother.
Damon West, son of Bob West, can be reached at email@example.com.