Boxing champ Ron Guidry reflects on what may be his final Golf.com World Am
Ron Guidry had a busy summer planned.
The 76-year-old had golf tournaments and boxing events -- yes, boxing (more on that later) -- on the agenda this summer. His plans changed radically when he discovered he had developed cancer in his right eye. In July, he received radiation treatment for an entire week and couldn't lift a club or work out during the process, a problem for the uber-active grandfather who works out twice a day when prepping for boxing matches.
Once the radiation was completed, he decided his body was well enough to participate in the 30th annual Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship held in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Guidry slowly began working his way back into the game, but could only hit a small bucket of balls before his body would give out. After the tournament, he is traveling to Memphis to meet with an eye specialist to determine if the radiation cured his cancer.
"If not, they're going to have to take my eye out," Guidry said. "That will probably be the last of my golf. I'm not going to try and play with just one eye. It's hell after you've been boxing and playing golf for so long, and suddenly you might have to give it all up."
If this was Guidry's last tournament, the silver-haired granddad can sleep happy. The 8-handicapper recorded rounds of 76-79-70-76 for the week and finished tied for fifth.
But about that boxing thing. Guidry's boxing career had an auspicious start over 60 years ago. When he began boxing at age 12, he didn't win a single fight in his initial tryout.
"I thought, 'This ain't for me, baby.'"
A few years later, he revisited the idea in high school and finished second in the state boxing competition. Soon after, boxing teams were removed from high schools and college. Guidry turned to Golden Gloves, the main amateur boxing organization in the country. He finished with two championships and two runner-ups before giving up the sport when he turned 24 to play golf.
Boxing to golf?
"I had a hell of a slice," Guidry said. "Not a slice, a banana. It took me a while until I could hit the ball straight."
Guidry blames boxing. He jumps out of his seat to demonstrate.
"When you box, you're hitting like this with your shoulder," he says while displaying a powerful and compact over-the-top motion with his right arm. "If you were to do that with a club, you'd hit a slice.
"A lot times I do one of my favorite punches, the overhand right, and think what if I did that with a club?" Guidry said. "I had such a big banana because I was coming over the top. You have to adjust to both of them."
It was easier to separate the two motions when his boxing gloves were in the attic. Guidry didn't hit a bag for more than 40 years after he gave up the sport.
But when he was 70 years old, he read a magazine article about Paul Soucy, the winner of the World Masters Ringside Boxing Championship at age 68. The competitive juices began flowing once again.
"I went to the gym and hit the bag to see if I still got it," Guidry said. "I hit it once and said, 'Look a'there, that's not half bad.' I had three months and trained like crazy."
Like a movie script - and Guidry knows movies, he's been cast as an extra in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Dukes of Hazzard - Guidry went to Kansas City and beat Soucy to win the 2007 championship. He followed up his debut with two more wins in the next three years.
Jean, Ron's wife of 50 years, travels with him for all of his boxing and golf tournaments. But she enjoys the golf trips much more.
"I'm not fond of it, let's put it that way," Jean said describing her feelings watching her husband in the ring.
The golf trips are more enjoyable.
"I shop, he plays," she says, revealing the key to their 50 years of marriage.
Their children and grandchildren favor the boxing. And who wouldn't like to see their dad or granddad throw some haymakers in the ring?
"My daughter came one time, and in a video, you can hear her yelling, "Come on Dad!" Guidry proudly said.
Even with his decorated record as a senior, the best memory Guidry has in boxing is from his first year at the Golden Gloves tournament against an opponent that was a two-time state champ.
"I was in the finals with him and everyone was picking him," Guidry said. "And I knocked him out in the first round. Some people say it was a lucky punch, but I don't care. I actually had to knock him out twice. When I first knocked him out, the referee was good friends with him so he went over there and picked him up. As soon as he let go, I got back on him and knocked him out."
Even though Guidry might not have the chance to make more memories in the ring or on the course, he doesn't plan to lower his activity level.
"I guess I'm going to have to go to bowling now," he said. "My brother said it wasn't a bad idea. If you play bowling, you're in the air conditioning and if you want something to eat, it's all right there."
It's all in the way you look at it.