Golf-loving WW2 vet in hospice care heads out for one final round

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KEARNEY, Mo. -- It's a famous quote: to know a man's true character, play golf with him.

A dying man's wish is granted on Tuesday morning, as a gentleman golfer got out for, likely, one final round.

In this trip around the tees, every moment is precious, and even bad shots get the job done. 92-year old Fred Clark, known as “Fritz” to his friends, wouldn't dream of missing this round. After 80 years of playing golf, this will be his final nine holes, with nurses and hospice workers by his side.

“It relaxes you. You don't think about anything else but playing golf. That's the reason I played it too,” Clark said, while sitting in the clubhouse at MariMack Golf Complex in Kearney.

Clark is in the late stages of brain cancer. Treatments to beat a large tumor haven't worked. The World War II Naval seaman has played this game since he was 12 years old, when, in 1936, an uncle introduced him to the game.

“(Cancer) isn’t comfortable,” Clark said. “I don't sleep well. I eat well at times, and other times, I don't.”

This final chance to play comes from Crossroads Hospice, a non-profit group from the metro that grants dying wishes to as many as 30 terminally-ill people per month.

“He's getting closer to the end. An opportunity like this to get out and play golf is a great opportunity for him,” Crystal Wilson, Crossroads Hospice social worker, said.

“Fritz” says he had a house filled with trophies from amateur tournaments -- the most recent of which came just three years ago. He knows, given his age and his health, this may be his final round.

Six holes into the round at MariMack, Clark says he's had enough, leaving the back nine of his passion behind.

“I know it's going to happen. It's just when and how, I don't know. Whenever he says go, I'll go,” Clark said.

This act of kindness could lead to his greatest smile.

Hospice workers say “Fritz” Clark is receiving only palliative care for his cancer. There's no way to know how much time he has left.

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