Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dave Lobaugh: Not Handicapped at All

Life had gone quite smoothly for Dave Lobaugh for 71 years.

--Solid family with wife Gloria, two sons and a daughter.

--Retired from Shell Oil at age 55, then established a highly successful consulting practice, serving top-tier clients like Kroger, Stanley Tools, and M & M Mars, focusing on team building and other communication topics.

--Captain of his high school golf team in Toledo, Ohio, kept a 2 handicap in his 30s, and in semi-retirement shot in the 70s regularly with his golf pals in Milledgeville, Georgia.

Then the smooth, easy life ended. In March of 1996, Dave was building cabinets in his home workshop downstairs. Suddenly, he lost control of his radial-arm saw. To his horror, the saw severed four fingers from his right hand.

Within hours, the orthopaedic surgeon said that reattaching the fingers would require 12 to 14 hours of surgery. Dave declined: “My fingers already were arthritic. It would have been difficult for me to retain any function.”

At first, deep depression swept over him. By phone a few weeks ago, Dave told me, “Lying in that hospital bed, I contemplated suicide. I pictured myself taking my boat to the middle of Lake Sinclair, tying weights around my feet, and ending it all that way.”

However, his despair did not last long. Relying on “a support system that was everywhere around me,” Dave Lobaugh rallied, like a golfer who had played a lousy front nine and needed to finish strong with only pars and birdies. Within a week, he was swinging a putter one-handed in his living room.

His wife Gloria and his friend Nathan Morgan helped him construct a velcro-supported glove for his right hand, to simulate the grip he had used for 56 years. By summer he returned to the game.

Then came a moment of magic. During an August 1996 round with his longtime three golfing pals, Dave watched his tee shot on Milledgeville Country Club’s 15th hole head straight for the green—and the flag. Bounce, roll, plop. . .a hole-in-one. Remarkably, after so many years of firing right at the pin with two five-finger hands, this was his first ace. Yet another was to follow in October of 2000, four years after his workshop mishap.

Still, don’t consider him a one-shot wonder. Later, he won the club’s senior championship and after that the super-senior championship. At age 77, he fulfilled another golf fantasy, shooting the same score as his age.

Oh, I should mention as well that Dave Lobaugh conquered other health challenges. He went through colon cancer surgery in 2000 and quadruple bypass heart surgery in 2001.

David Franklin, head pro at the Milledgeville CC, commented about Dave: “His attitude never changed. He was ready to get back playing golf. That’s a tribute to his character.”

A personal note: For five years while I was vice president of Georgia College in Milledgeville, I knew Dave as a cheerful friend and golf companion. We also talked about consulting, a mutual professional interest that was to blossom for both of us eventually. I admired Dave as a successful business leader, and as a golfer who could outscore me any day.

However, I didn’t get to know the real Dave Lobaugh until he overcame a loss that most of us would consider devastating and insurmountable.

Today, at age 81, Dave plays twice a week. On those outings, you can be sure he is grateful for every swing.

My company motto is “Helping You Finish in First Place!” Thanks to Dave Lobaugh for demonstrating what makes a person finish first, even when the odds are strongly against you.

You can comment on this article (and any other article on this blog) by hitting COMMENT, and then sharing your reactions with other blog readers.

For other inspiring stories, order my audio CD, "Maintaining Maximum Motivation: Strategies for Staying in High Gear!" It's available, using MasterCard or Visa, on my Web site's shopping cart: