- Rick Reilly, Columnist, ESPN.com
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This is just a little story about friendship and holes-in-one and how death can remind you which is rarer.
It starts with a sports nut named Buzz Jordan, who was practically born at a football game. His mother's water broke at a University of Colorado game but since her husband was the namesake for the team MVP award -- Zack Jordan -- she didn't dare ask to leave.
Maybe that's why, later, one of Buzz's unbreakable rules was "Always stay to the end of the game!" When one particular game ended -- Colorado's 2001 stunner over Nebraska -- Buzz snuck up on CU's 1,300-pound mascot, Ralphie, snipped off some of his hair and kept it in his wallet the rest of his days.
There was also "You gotta learn to fall before you can get up!"
Which is why when Buzz taught you to ski, he pushed you down in the snow first, so you'd learn how to get up on skis. Buzz's goal in life was to match the first two figures of his salary to the number of his ski days in a year.
And of course there was "Call your mother!" Buzz did it religiously. His dad died young and Buzz felt he had a role to fill. In fact, when Buzz turned 18, he had his name legally changed to his dad's -- John Zack Jordan -- out of respect.
Buzz was not just an optimist. He made optimists look like hangmen. He was the kind of guy who's sure the IRS auditor is going to find mistakes in his favor.
Buzz was not just an optimist. He made optimists look like hangmen. He was the kind of guy who's sure the IRS auditor is going to find mistakes in his favor. That's why it figured that he'd convince seven of his childhood buddies to throw in $100 a year for a Hole in One Club. First guy to make an ace got the money. But there was a twist: One of the eight had to be a witness when it happened. Buzz figured that way, they'd all play together more often.
Well, 22 years went by -- from 1988 to 2010 -- and nobody cashed in. Not once. Not only did none of them ever make an ace around each other, only one of them ever made an ace at all.
Not that it mattered. The Hole in One Club stayed so close the guys started holding Hole in One Club tournaments together. They got sponsors and prizes and gave all the money to the American Cancer Society. Held it for 10 years and sent a meaty check every year.
And then, in January of this year, cancer got Buzz. Throat and neck. Bad. Which was jarring, since Buzz had always been the fittest of the group. Of course, Buzz wasn't worried. For him, it only forced him to ask the big question, green wig or pink? (Even during chemo, Buzz skied in the green one.)
In fact, Buzz was so sure everything was going to be fine, the group decided to plan a big cure party. They would take all the money -- it was over $15,000 now -- and go to Pebble Beach for three days. Blow the money on a big Buzz Beats The Big C bash.
Buzz was one treatment away from Pebble when his heart just stopped.
The end of the game had come. It was June 21. He was dead at 49,
the exact same age his dad and granddad died. The man who taught you how to get up was staying down for good.
Rather than go to Carmel as planned, the seven resurrected the Hole in One Tournament, in Buzz's honor. They raised another $25,000, added that to the $15,000 hole-in-one kitty, and gave the whole bundle to Buzz's two sons, Brooks and Zack, for college.
And that was that.
But then, on Oct. 2, a very Buzz thing happened. One of the seven -- Scott Lasater -- decided to play golf with some buddies. Not easy, since an injury three years before had wrecked his right hand. He could hardly grip the club. Yet Buzz refused to let him quit golf, so he kept playing.
As Lasater was playing that day, he kept hearing the words Buzz used to yell at him on every par 3: "Come on Las! Let's get one here!"
And so it was he came to the seventh hole at his home club -- Lone Tree Golf and Country Club -- 152 yards. He hit a 6-iron that landed in the rough, left of the green. But the ball took a weird bounce dead right -- "sort of defying the forces of nature," Lasater says -- spun back down a little hill and trickled lazily into the cup for an ace.
Freaking, Lasater texted the news to one of the seven, who texted back: "Wow! And on Buzz's birthday, too!"
It had completely slipped Lasater's mind. Buzz would've been 50 that day.
Figures. Buzz always found the coolest gifts.
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