U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR
Guercios Making Most of Time Together
July 18, 2016 | Ooltewah, Tenn.
By Stuart Hall
Late one afternoon in May 2010, Crosby Guercio and his father, Tommy, were locked in a friendly match that had reached the third hole at Stonebriar Country Club.
“Easily reachable in two,” said Crosby of the short, dogleg-right par-5 hole at their Frisco, Texas, home club.
Both players were facing birdie attempts on the hole they now jokingly refer to as the “stroke” hole.
Tommy’s attempt was the closer of the two. Crosby, then 11, remembers his dad marking his ball, lining up the putt, standing up and then falling down.
“It was frightening,” said Crosby of watching his father going into cardiac arrest, his heart stopping completely.
Just two weeks earlier, Crosby had witnessed his father endure a similar episode at the club.
“The first time it happened, I didn't really know what was going on,” Crosby said. “The second time, I wanted to call 911. I was a little better prepared.”
On the eve of the 69th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at The Honors Course, the two sat next to each other at a table and were able to chuckle at some of the period’s funnier circumstances. After the first episode, for example, Tommy told his son he might have to drive them to the nearby hospital.
“All I had ever driven was a golf cart,” joked Crosby, who was spared the duty.
Laughing about that period in their lives is a testament to their tight-knit bond and how time has helped ease the fear.
While serving in the U.S. Army in 1992, Tommy was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which deals with the heart’s electrical system. Degeneration of his heart muscle and the stresses of everyday life combined to ignite a dangerous secondary heart condition that led to his episodes.
“It’s like turning the lights on and off, it’s all electrical,” Tommy said. “Independently, neither is really fatal. Combine the two, though, and you have a much lower survival rate.”
The survival rate of people who need to have their heart restarted twice in such a short span, Guercio was told, is less than 1 percent.
At the time of the first cardiac arrest, Tommy was told to see a heart specialist, but the earliest that could occur was July. After the second episode, a heightened sense of urgency prevailed and Guercio would not be released from the hospital unless he saw a specialist immediately.
The specialist wanted to schedule surgery without any delay. There was only one problem. In March, as a birthday present, Tommy’s wife, Dana, had purchased tickets for Tommy and Crosby to attend the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links, which was now just a week away.
“I didn’t want anything to stop him and I spending that time together,” said Tommy, who also admits being “terrified the entire time.”
The two experienced an unforgettable few days, walking along the coastline holes 7, 8 and 9 and standing behind the 18th green so Crosby could snare autographs from the likes of Dustin Johnson, K.J. Choi, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott.
“I cherished the time,” Crosby said.
Upon returning home, Tommy underwent more than five hours of heart surgery. Surgeons were unable to determine the extent of damage to the heart, so whether the condition is completely resolved remains unknown. Yet Tommy has been episode-free since, and Crosby says that as time passes, he thinks of those days less frequently.
Two years after watching Graeme McDowell win the U.S. Open, father and son were at Augusta National to see Charl Schwartzel win the Masters.
This week may trump those major experiences.
Tommy has the benefit of age, thus a bit more perspective on the whole ordeal.
“It just means the world to me,” he said of his son qualifying for his first USGA championship. “I just think he’s a wonderful young man and I’m incredibly proud of him. For me to be here and have the opportunity to support him is hard to explain. Definitely in the back of your mind you wonder how long your runway is and that’s tough.”
Crosby, a 16-year-old rising sophomore at Frisco High, shot a blistering 63 in his qualifier at Dornick Hills Country Club in Ardmore, Okla.
“No, I don’t take having him around for granted,” said Crosby, who has a goal of one day qualifying for the Masters and having his father serve as his caddie.
“That would be wonderful,” Tommy said.
At this point, every day is wonderful.
Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites.