Orlando, Fla. – Chuck Ingram had the look of exasperation as the ball struck the flagstick and disappeared on the par-5 ninth hole on Saturday at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club. Even a chip-in par couldn’t wipe away the frustration of an 81 in the first round of stroke-play qualifying at the 2010 USGA Senior Amateur Championship.
Sure the 56-year-old from Shepherdstown, W.Va., had expected a better showing in his second Senior Amateur and fourth USGA championship overall. But considering that Ingram nearly died five years ago, just competing on any level is a blessing.
An allergic reaction to a prostate medication sent Ingram to the Intensive Care Unit four different times covering a total of 22 days. Doctors initially thought he had sepsis, a serious condition that is characterized by a whole-body inflammatory state. A lay term for the condition is blood poisoning.
Ingram’s blood pressure got so low that doctors told Ingram he twice was close to death.
I never saw the light, but I will say at one time I was in so much pain and then all at once it just got real calm, said Ingram. I don’t know if that was it, but that’s when the doctor said, ‘You don’t know how lucky you are.’
Finally, by Ingram’s fourth visit to the ICU, he discovered it was the medication that was causing his problems.
I’ve been good ever since, said Ingram.
But the hospital visits were not Ingram’s first brush with last rites.
When Ingram was 13, he was playing pick-up football with his neighborhood friends when they noticed a plane careening out of control. The billowing smoke from a nearby mountainside in central Maryland screamed something was amiss.
So Ingram and five friends jumped on their bikes and found the four-passenger plane. They helped get two of the four passengers out of the plane. A third passenger died.
Ingram and three others were awarded the Medal of Merit by the Boy Scouts of America.
The pilot lived, said Ingram. [But] we haven’t seen them since [the crash].
Back then, the 6-foot-2 Ingram was much more into basketball than golf. He played on his high school team and coached at the high school level for 22 years. Since he retired from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md., six years ago – he rose from mowing lawns to the position of chief of operation and maintenance, where he was in charge of 93 people – Ingram has returned to coaching. For the past four years, he has been assisting at Shepherd University, a Division II school that competes in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
I can’t recruit because I haven’t taken the [NCAA] recruiting test, he said. I’m a practice dummy. I give advice during the games. It’s a lot of fun.
Ingram also recently became a father again, adopting a 5-year-old son with his second wife Jennifer. When the two were dating, Jennifer’s cousin became a foster mother and she would watch the young infant on weekends. Three months ago, they officially adopted the boy.
The opportunity came for us to be parents, said Chuck, who has a 30-year-old daughter from his first marriage. I’m learning all over again. He’s teaching me. He’s making me be patient because he’s a tough little kid.
Being patient has also carried over to the golf course. Ingram didn’t take up the game until he was 30. As a youth, golf didn’t have the appeal it does today. Ingram credits Tiger Woods and David Duval for making the game appeal to a younger generation.
It didn’t take much time for the athletic lefty to get his game to an elite level. He qualified for his first USGA event, the U.S. Mid-Amateur, in 2001. Then a year after his health issues, he qualified again for the Mid-Amateur at Bandon Dunes. Each time he missed the match-play cut.
Last year he qualified for his first Senior Amateur, shooting rounds of 76-76, playing 5-over-par golf over his final five holes to miss the cut by one at Beverly Country Club in Chicago. That disappointment fueled his motivation for 2010.
And it’s been a solid year so far. He finished 13th in the West Virginia State Amateur at the Greenbrier and was 25th at the State Open. More importantly, he was the medalist at his Senior Amateur qualifier at the Glade Springs Resort (Cobb Course), shooting a 70 to grab the only available spot.
So Ingram came to Lake Nona with high expectations, and he felt even better after a strong practice round on Friday. Then his spirits were dampened with the 81.
In the past, I probably would have wanted to throw 17 clubs or something like that, said Ingram. But it’s not the end of the world. I still have tomorrow.
David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. E-mail him with comments or questions at email@example.com.