Hole-in-one|When it comes to golf, George Tweedle has a leg up on the competition

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 26, 2009

If it had been a football game, there’s no way George Tweedle could have kicked the extra point. That’s because he had his left foot and part of his leg amputated halfway up the calf.

But it didn’t keep him from making a hole-in-one at the Tallulah Country Club — and only 2 1/2 months after the surgery.

He thought about going back to the golf course for a month before he tried it. Wearing a prosthesis, he went, just driving the ball with a wood. It was better than he thought, so the next week he began playing and has done so ever since.

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He was on the 7th green, 16th hole, par 3, when he hit the ball 185 yards. He didn’t see it go in the hole, but one of his friends, Don Morton, did.

“I knew it was close,” Tweedle said. “So I tiptoed up there and looked, and it was in the hole.”

He said he hollered a couple of times, and learned that some players on the 8th green heard him and knew he had made a good shot. Another friend, Bobby Todd, told him earlier in the day if he made a hole-in-one, he’d give him $100. Todd was as good as his word.

Tweedle grew up in Rosedale and began playing golf on weekends in 1970 “because my buddies did.” In high school, he played the usual popular sports, like football and baseball. He moved to Vicksburg in 1982 and began playing on the Tallulah course over 20 years ago with the same friends he plays with today — Don Morton, Billy Bishop and David Williams.

One of the main challenges since surgery, Tweedle said, is preparing for the swing, for usually most of his weight is on his left leg and foot. It takes about four or five holes to get used to the balance, he said.

How rare is it to hit a hole-in-one?

Tweedle doesn’t know the statistics, but he said it is pretty rare, though the pros hit them fairly often. “But, for the rest of us, it’s just every once in a while.”

Morton agreed, saying they have all been amazed, for “there’s no way on God’s green earth that we could have thought George could hit the ball like that so quickly.”

If his comeback has been awesome to his golfing buddies, it might also be an encouragement to a pro golfer, Ken Green, who was seriously injured in a wreck south of Jackson. Green’s right foot had to be amputated, and Tweedle visited him to bolster his resolve before Green was taken to his South Carolina home.

Tweedle participates in tournaments, having played recently in the Farmers Basket, which includes courses at Lake Bruin, Tallulah and Lake Providence. His winnings in tournaments, he said, are few and far between.

At the Tallulah course, Tweedle rides to the green, though it doesn’t hurt him to walk. “There’s nothing else wrong with me except my left leg,” the 65-year-old said.

Morton teased Tweedle, saying, “We’ve let him off at the forward tees since the surgery, but we’ve told him he has just about worn out his welcome up there.”

Tweedle pointed out that Sandra Smith, who he said runs the Tallulah club, “is on my side. She put it in the by-laws that a one-legged man can tee off any place he wants to.”

Tweedle, who now lives at Redwood, had a career in working for a cotton compress at the Port of Vicksburg and as a farmer. A forklift fell on him in 1971, crushing his ankle. He feels lucky that it fell on his leg. Doctors fused the ankle where it was broken and drilled a hole just above it. When the pin was removed, it shattered another bone and became infected. Two more surgeries followed, all in 1972.

The infection lay dormant until 1994. The hole in his leg, which would not heal, made additional surgery necessary in 1999.

Early this year, Tweedle’s doctors gave him three options: He could live with it, though the infection might spread and kill him; they could clean out the wound and shave the bones, but he wouldn’t be able to walk; or they could amputate the foot.

He has no regrets about choosing the third option. Things have gone well, he said, and he feels good and is excited about playing golf.

He has retired that very special ball and will put it in a shadow box, adding that “it took me 65 1/2 years to make a hole-in-one.”

His golfing buddies have a new name for him, one said teasingly but with admiration: “That one-legged ________” they call him.

None of his two-legged friends, however, have made a hole-in-one on the Tallulah course.

Gordon Cotton is an author and historian who lives in Vicksburg.