The Walk-Off

A perfect farewell to the game
23 Lipping Out The Walk-Off

Oct. 21, 2016. A glorious autumn day at Glens Falls Country Club, north of Albany, New York, playing with my best friend and wingman of two decades, Thomas “T.C.” Collins. The trees bursting with color, the golf course playing firm, the sun shining brightly—“Golftober,” as we called it, was underway. 

T.C. and I first met in 1998 at Hiwan Golf Club in Evergreen, Colorado. We stayed close after he and his wife, Liz, moved back to upstate New York. T.C. had been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer at age 44, in 2012.

He was a warrior and kept playing golf as best he could despite 80 chemotherapy and 20 radiation treatments. But by 2016, T.C. was out of options. He’d developed an allergy to the otherwise efficacious chemo drugs, and the attempt to desensitize him to those drugs failed.

T.C. and I played that day with Joe Richardson and Tom Burhoe, locals and great friends. When we came to the first par 3, I chirped, “Today is the day: We need a hole-in-one.”

We were playing COD, a four-ball that pairs carts, then others, then drivers. For the final six holes, T.C. and I played as partners. The 18th at GFCC is the last of the course’s four one-shotters. The tee sits adjacent to the clubhouse, with a two-tiered green resting invitingly below. On that day, the hole played 136 yards. Remember that number. 

Joey, Tom and I all found the green. As T.C. lined up, I told the group, “All right, everybody, think 1. Think 1.” T.C.’s 7-iron came off pure. His soft draw landed just right of the flag, released toward the cup, tapped the pin and paused on the lip as if contemplating its place in the world. Then it disappeared. 

We erupted, our celebration waking up a sleeping baby on a nearby screened-in porch.

T.C. looked stunned. Then he shared with us that the number of his childhood home was 136, and that he thought about his upbringing and his deceased father every time he had that yardage.

After the round, T.C. told me that last miraculous swing might be, as he put it, “a walk-off.” It hurt to swing the club, and his once-strong golf game had been decimated. He tried to play a few more times, mostly so he could be with his friends on the course he loved so much. On Jan. 10, 2017, 81 days after his incredible ace, T.C. died peacefully.

Gary Albrecht practices law and sits on the board of the Colorado Golf Association. He’s been a Broken Tee Society member since 2017.