Deck Cheatham: Remembering 'Pro'

Deck Cheatham

"I love you."

"I love you, too, Pro."

Click. The call ended. These same words were last words, his, a goodbye, mine, a false hope he would heal and come home, a guttural fear we would not have lunch again together, talk golf or seek each other's counsel. Death came a few days later.

Some days, I reach for the phone, then catch myself knowing he is not there. Guilt creeps in over the times I did not pick up the phone and call. Did I think he would always be there?

Lowell Dean Fritz Sr., my friend, my fellow golf professional, "reached out to the hand of God" on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020. A more appropriate and concise image could not have been written about him.

Lowell reached out to many during his lifetime. He knew no other way. When I arrived in Dalton 30 years ago, he reached out to me to welcome me to the community.

Only aware of him because of his plaque hanging in the clubhouse, I had been introduced to his history and legend in the Dalton community during my interview. After settling in my new surroundings, meeting him, talking to him, the sense of his being began to permeate my consciousness. Ease and congeniality best describe my initial impressions. Experience confirmed it.

Golf professionals live in a true fraternity. No jealousy exists between us. Competitive on the golf course, all subsides when the final putt drops, and we return to our respective clubs to apply our craft. I have never met a fellow professional who hesitated to share his insights on the golf swing or how best to communicate them to a student. Each wishes the other to succeed. Lowell epitomized this fraternal character trait.

Attending PGA meetings with him, his old friends called him Lowell. All the young professionals would say Mr. Fritz. They knew.

Knowing his reputation for teaching, I decided one day to go to Dalton Golf & Country Club and watch him teach. I wanted to learn his approach. There was nothing particular to notice about the techniques he taught. After all, the golf swing, alone, is a simple matter subjecting itself to the laws of physics and the vagaries of the person holding the club. Lowell knew how he wanted to communicate those techniques, which ones applied to his student and no more. He hammered home the message until it was received physically.

But there was more. His magic, his approach, his method, relied not just on the information he was giving, the whole of his legend grounded itself in love. Lowell's students knew he loved them by his words, his tone, his countenance and his belief each could "get it."

I picked up the phone today, then remembered he was not there. But he is there, in my memory, in my heart and he will always be. This is how love works, at best and most, the way Lowell Fritz lived it.

His love will outlast the legend.

Deck Cheatham has been a golf professional for some 40 years. He lives with his family in Dalton. Please visit his blog at deck cheatham.com. Email him at pgadeacon@gmail.com.

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