On his second and last round at the country club putting green, 8-year-old William Lucas tapped the bright yellow golf ball with his club and watched with great satisfaction as it plopped directly into the hole. It was a jubilant end to an amazing afternoon.
“Woooo hooo! Woooo! I got it in!” he said, throwing his arms in the air and high-fiving his partner, Kiss 98.5 disc jockey Jud Heussler. “I got a hole in one, dude!”
Once again, the red-haired boy with sunglasses, who counts his neurosurgeon among his friends, was making the adults around him smile. That’s what they were doing about an hour before when he opened the Tops Celebrity Putting Contest at Amherst’s Transit Valley Country Club late Sunday morning with a joke that people were soon repeating to anyone who hadn’t heard.
Why do golfers need two pairs of pants?
In case they get a hole in one.
“He just reads them on the internet and then memorizes them,” said his mother Kerri Lucas, who retreated to the shade with other families of the 10 children’s hospital patients who were invited to team up with local media celebrities and TV personalities.
It was prelude to the Tops Charity Golf Outing Monday that raised $295,000 for the new Oishei Children’s Hospital under construction downtown.
It was also part of the silver lining, like the hospital’s family community, that Lucas is grateful for.
“It’s not all needles and surgery,” she said. “Without these events, we wouldn’t have these people in our lives.”
Her son was born prematurely with hydrocephalus, or fluid in the brain. Surgeries help relieve the condition that shaped his childhood. Routine MRI checkups led to his friendship with his surgeon and the technician who puts earplugs in so the noise of the machine won’t bother him before he slips on the scan helmet to “blast off to the moon.”
For the last few years William has cultivated a following by going on the radio with Heussler and helping the hospital raise money by telling jokes and encouraging people to call as soon as a he says, “Shazam!” He’s thrilled when the phones start ringing as if on command. “He really believes in the magic,” said Lucas, his mother.
Being able to give back to the hospital that gives their family so much is part of what she means when she talks about the silver lining. “It changes how he associates the hospital,” Lucas said.
As the young golfers went around the six holes of the putting green for a second round, Tara Gabel watched her daughter, Piper, a small girl in a rainbow sundress, use the club to tap the ball like a croquet mallet.
Piper’s rare form of dwarfism interferes with collagen production and she hasn’t grown in two years. Regular hospital visits help with problems, like respiratory infections because of her small chest.
Near the end of the round on the putting green, her partner, Ryan Behnke, a Pepsi account manager, helped her drop the ball in for a hole in one. Delighted, Piper ran to her father who lifted her up in his arms.
She’s confident for a 4½-year-old who is 30 inches tall, said Gabel. “It’s almost like it makes her feel empowered, like she’s a part of something,” said Gabel.
As the afternoon came to an end, William Lucas sat with a bowl of ice cream and a plate of cookies. His one word for this silver lining day?“Amazing,” he said. “I felt amazing.”