At no point in the latest episode of “Feherty” does the host ask viewers to feel sorry for Peter Oosterhuis. Oosterhuis was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014, which ended his distinguished career in golf as a player and commentator.
That fact is somber enough. There is no need for Feherty to hijack our emotions, to force us to empathize (which wouldn’t be empathy at all), to “hit us all in our feels.” Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease, worse than death according to Feherty. Like Oosterhuis, his own father is on a slow descent to nothingness.
“Alzheimer’s disease has stolen (my father) from me,” Feherty says in an essay, arguably the most poignant point of the episode. “The vehicle my father used to move around this world freewheels on down the road, but the man behind the wheel is nowhere to be found except in the memories of those who loved him.”
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) June 28, 2016
By the end of his recitation, Feherty is starting each sentence, “I remember.” He remembers everything. His father, now, remembers nothing. It’s a devastatingly poetic effect.
The result is Feherty’s finest installment in his show’s history—an episode that is equal parts cathartic, triumphant, tragic and educational.
Given the untimely passing of legendary Tennessee Women’s Basketball Coach Pat Summitt, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, it was made all the more emotional.
Few hosts have ever used their platform so admirably. Feherty introduces Jim Nantz, another son of an Alzheimer’s victim, to highlight Nantz’s charitable contributions to the battle against the disease. The famed CBS broadcaster established the Nantz National Alzheimer Center in 2011. It has since become a crucial resource for both researchers and patients, including Oosterhuis. Feherty himself takes part in a short test.
The segment provides viewers with a glimpse of some behind-the-scenes work, while also taking the fear away from the testing process.
In Oosterhuis’s wife Ruth, Feherty shows us the strength of love and its importance in her husband’s fight.
“I try to make every day as good as it can be,” she says as Oosty flashes that famous smile next to her. “We’re going to make it as good as good as it can be for the rest of our life.”
The plural pronoun sticks out here. With cameos from Nantz and Ruth we get a full picture of the Alzheimer experience.
And still, the episode’s central character shines brightest.
“I wanted to make sure you all know him like I do,” Feherty says of Oosterhuis before settling in for the interview.
The anecdotes are endless from a man who made his mark on the European Tour and at the Ryder Cup. The latter became Oosty’s calling card. In an era where the Americans dominated, Oosterhuis defeated most challengers.
He defeated Johnny Miller in 1975 and even Jack Nicklaus in 1977 when Oosty was paired with a young Nick Faldo.
His singles match against Lee Trevino in 1973, though, stands out for all the wrong reasons. After Trevino watched Oosterhuis make a fool of his teammates, he assured his fellow Americans that he would not lose to the 6-5 Englishman when the two met in morning singles. They halved. Nicklaus and co. showed up to the green with their pants on the ground, ready to make Trevino pay up for whatever crass bet he laid down.
In the afternoon, Oosterhuis handed Arnold Palmer a 4&2 loss.
Oosterhuis laughs easy and smiles easier through it all. His eyes are a picture of concentration as he struggles to pull out what memories he still has. It’s remarkable even if Feherty doesn’t pry quite the same as he would with any other guest. His purpose as host is to be a human cue card for a man in his last act of life.
As he’s done with everything in his life, Oosty’s meeting the challenge with grace, dignity and a sense of humor. https://t.co/XGU7I52WKp
— David Feherty (@Fehertwit) June 27, 2016
This may be the last time we see the Oosterhuis who came into our living rooms every weekend.
As the episode draws to a close, Feherty, with tears welling in his eyes, admits that he’s afraid of the fate that he might meet down the road, the same fate that has “stolen” his father and will do the same to Oosterhuis. He asks if his friend shares that fear.
Oosterhuis is taken aback by the question. But he doesn’t mention fear. He mentions hope.