October 20, 2013 in Sports

Blanchette: HOFer Lindeblad friend of everyone

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The veranda at Indian Canyon is not the veranda at Augusta National, and we rather prefer it that way. Because the panorama still makes you go, “Wow” – and it’s still very much us.

All of it.

The view, the course, the hard-rock clubhouse. The telltale clinging to past glories and the regrettable present-day warts. The lunch-pail foursome playing ahead of the lawyers. The cathedral of trees. The dog perched in the golf cart outside the pro shop.

And the pro.

“The course itself and the infrastructure here are a lot like me,” said Gary Lindeblad. “There’s not much that doesn’t need to be redone.”

Then there’s this: they’re both Hall of Famers.

On Tuesday, the 63-year-old Lindeblad joins Bobby Brett, Pat Falloon, Jerry Krause and Carl Johnson in the class of 2013 in the Inland Northwest Sports Hall of Fame. If there’s a commonality to the grouping, it might be a subtle underappreciation of their various achievements and contributions, for whatever reason. Until now, of course.

In Lindeblad’s case that might be hard to quantify, given the wide swath he’s cut through Spokane’s golf community and the army of friends he’s made in the process. We could suggest he’s underappreciated as a player, but what club pro isn’t?

But it’s true. Last Saturday at the Canyon, on a cool, breezy morning playing from the tips with his son, Matt, and a Titleist rep, Lindeblad went out and laid down a 61 on the old lady, equaling the course record. Ten birdies, not even a sniff of a bogey.

“I actually got nervous and I haven’t been nervous on a golf course for a long time,” he said. “Because it’s a big deal to shoot your age and I always thought maybe if I live long enough, I’ll pull it off.”

No, it wouldn’t be a conversation with Lindeblad without a little gallows humor, made possible both by the wise-ass within and by the rare cancer – Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia – that was diagnosed in 1998. He beat it into an uneasy holding pattern four years ago, rallying from multiple brushes with death to utter toss-aways like, “I don’t have a bucket list, I have a cup list.” He’s not cavalier about it, but he has made peace with it.

“The tragedy of cancer is little kids,” he said. “After 50, anything goes.”

Part of his off-handed resolve was something that rubbed off at home, watching the uncomplaining struggles of another son. Born with severe asthma, Adam Lindeblad’s nightmarish health history included epilepsy, Type 1 diabetes and avascular necrosis, a savage bone disease that attacks the joints and required hip and knee replacements and complete rebuilds of both arms. And yet not long after one of those procedures, he grabbed a club from his dad’s pro shop and hit balls on the driving range with his arm in a soft cast.

“He had the biggest grin on his face,” Lindeblad said. “He said, ‘I’m going to play golf again.’ ”

A few days later – last Nov. 6 – Adam was dead of hypertensive heart failure at the age of 30.

“It just sucks the life out of you – you can’t even breathe,” said his father. “And it’s not that you don’t get over it – I don’t want to get over it.

“I talk to him every night.”

If you stop by his new display case in the Hall of Fame’s home at the Spokane Arena, you’ll see a photograph of a young Adam helping his dad line up a putt en route to winning the Lilac Invitational back in 1994. That image – not one of him holding a trophy or having dinner with Ben Hogan or some other Major Name – remains his favorite golf picture.

Which is one of the reasons Gary Lindeblad has Hall of Fame goods.

He’s been the Everyman Pro at the Everyman’s Country Club that is the Canyon for 28 years, not just putting up with the crazy-quilt cross-section of humanity that makes up the clientele but embracing it. And they happily put up with him and his “runaway ADHD.”

“I’ve been out of Ritalin for two weeks,” he confessed.

No joke. About a decade ago, a psychologist he was teaching suggested he drop in for some tests after Lindeblad complained about an inability to concentrate.

“He said, ‘You know, Gary, I’m an expert in ADHD,’ ” Lindeblad recalled. “ ‘I’ve done a lot of research and magazine articles. I’ll be talking about you the rest of my life. Never seen anybody so textbook. It’s amazing to me you’re not on a freeway off ramp with a cardboard sign.’ ”

And yet somehow, with considerable launch help from his fellow local pros and a bandwagon that picked up momentum each year, he got the Rosauer’s Open Invitational off the ground, providing a lifeline for the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery.

We like it that he hasn’t stopped fighting for the Canyon, a victim of neglect by the city’s golf stewards (“Like the Fox Theater, it should be incumbent on the community to make this a show place,” he said). We like it that he adopted an angry stray dog that used to chase golfers from the parking lot to the clubhouse and saw it become a kid-friendly softy, even if its name – Beezy – was short for Beelzebub.

We really like it that the one golf rule he’d change is the two-stroke penalty for a lost ball, since the cost of the ball should be penalty enough.

But the real Hall of Fame side of Gary Lindeblad is that he knows where he is, and why he likes it.

“I have friends, and customers, who are ex-cons and millionaires,” he said, “every profile there is and a spectrum that you wouldn’t expect much in golf. Public golf is just a lot more interesting, and that’s my niche.

“The best part. The best part is all of it.”


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