USGA FOUNDATION
Making Dad's U.S. Open Dream Come True June 17, 2018 By Jordan Schwartz, USGA

Marvin Kroes can be difficult to understand on the phone. ALS is slowly robbing him of the ability to speak. But when asked how it felt when his sons surprised him with tickets to the U.S. Open, it's not the disease that keeps him quiet.

“It makes me very emotional that they would take me there,” he said after collecting himself.

Kroes was never a single-digit handicap. He didn’t travel the country playing America’s best courses. He’s always just been a guy who loves golf.

“You meet some nice friendly people,” he said. “It’s just great to be outdoors playing a sport.”

Kroes is proud of the time he recorded three straight birdies and shot 37 during a nine-hole round. He’s proud of how he worked his way up from the bottom to spend a dozen years as superintendent at McNary Golf Club in Keizer, Ore. That’s where he taught his two sons, Andrew and Nick, how to play. They’d go late in the day, feed the ducks and hit some balls.

Andrew became the better golfer of the two, beating his dad for the first time in high school before earning a scholarship to Northwest Nazarene University, a Division II institution 22 miles west of Boise, Idaho. Marvin is proud of that, too.

But Marvin can’t play golf anymore. On Feb, 19, a week before his 60th birthday, Kroes received his diagnosis. Commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is an affliction of the nervous system that weakens muscles and deteriorates physical function.

He first experienced symptoms on the course. Working three days a week at a factory enabled Kroes to spend the rest of his time playing golf. Last summer, his legs started getting tired and he couldn’t finish walking 18, something he’d do nearly every day. The family visited a series of doctors, keeping in mind Marvin’s grandmother died from ALS.

Marvin Kroes introduced his two sons to golf when he was a course superintendent in Oregon and took them to visit Pebble Beach in 1988. (Kroes family photo)

 

“It took a little bit of time to diagnose,” Andrew said. “It was a relief in some ways to know there wouldn’t be any more appointments, although it was the diagnosis we were fearing the most.”

ALS has taken a lot from Marvin: his mobility, some of his speech and the strength to play the game he adores.

“As of a couple months ago, he was saying he was still going to find a way to play golf,” said Nick. “I don’t know if he’s let that reality hit him.”

He has.

“I absolutely miss it,” Marvin said.

Following the diagnosis, the Kroes boys wanted to do something special for their dad. They had never attended a golf championship together and considering the rate at which Marvin’s disease is progressing, Andrew and Nick set their sights on a 2018 major.

“The U.S. Open made sense being that it’s centered around Father’s Day,” said Andrew, who recently moved his parents into his Boise house with his wife and four kids, so they can all assist with Marvin’s care.

The two sons surprised their dad with tickets for Thursday through Sunday at Shinnecock Hills. Marvin cried when he found out.

Kroes was confined to a motorized scooter provided by the USGA at the U.S. Open, but that didn't keep him from watching Dustin Johnson chip in from the bunker to birdie the 8th hole on Thursday.

On Saturday, he and his sons were invited inside the ropes to watch a few golfers tee off at the 1st. Webb Simpson, Tony Finau and Peter Uihlein took time to shake Marvin's hand on their way out.

“That was even better than watching DJ chip in," he said.

Jordan Schwartz is the creative and content lead for the USGA Foundation. Email him at jschwartz@usga.org.