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.