Marathon Man Tony
BY DANNY LOCKWOOD
Being told you have an incurable medical condition just three months after retiring from work is enough to lay anyone low. For Tony Bruce, it began a journey that gives hope and inspiration to so many people similarly afflicted. It was in June 2019, just a few weeks after retiring from running his own business, that Tony’s wife Anne noticed a tremor in her husband’s left hand. By August it had been diagnosed as Parkinson’s Disease. Asked by his GP if he enjoyed any physical activities, Tony – a keen sportsman in his youth – reflected on having been as low as a 5- handicap golfer at Harrogate Golf Club, and more recently a lapsed member at York. Within a month Tony was again a member at Strensall – the Bruce family’s home village – and once we were all back on golf courses after lockdown, there began an almost accidental marathon that continues to this day. He takes up the story: “The consultant encouraged me to renew my interest in golf, as the physical movement of swinging a golf club and walking several miles may perhaps help delay the disease’s progression. “I soon realised golf was helping to take my mind off the diagnosis and focus my mind, on the game. I’m walk- ing approximately four miles and although it generally takes 3-to-4 hours to play a round of golf, I feel these physical activities are helping me manage my symptoms particularly the tremor, which is my main problem. “Over the last few years other symptoms like balance issues, stiffness in the leg muscles, [being] slow to turn in the shower and difficulty in getting to sleep have created new problems to overcome, a few of which have been improved by drugs. I’m sure though that playing golf has the added bonus that; I feel it’s helping improve my overall mobility. “The Covid pandemic was having a negative impact on both my physical and mental health. So, when the government announced that the Covid lockdown would finish at midnight on 27th March 2021, I couldn’t wait to get back out on the course. “My golfing partners and I immediately booked a tee time for the 28th. After months of walking around the perimeter of the course we could now play it. Thereby started a journey which has turned into a fundraising activity. “After I had reached 100 days of consecutive golf, members started showing interest in my exploits. Judy Baines the wife of a fellow PD sufferer David, was one member who in a casual conversation suggested open- ing a JustGiving page to raise money for PD research. “The idea of channelling ‘Playing golf every day’ into a fundraising activity appealed to me as I wanted to do something to help raise awareness and support research into finding a cure for this condition. “I hope my fundraising will help to achieve further research into possible new treatments to manage the con- dition more effectively and ultimately find a cure.” And what a journey it turned into. Tony racked up 435 consecutive days playing golf in some form or other, before a brief 13-day interlude when he and wife Anne holidayed ‘golf free’ in Croatia. Since returning he has continued the voyage. As of April 1st his golfing marathon had reached 721 days – and counting, with no plans to stop any time soon. On March 11th his friends at York GC marked his 700th day of golf by commissioning a new ‘700’ Trophy to be played for in the annual Captain vs Vice-Captain’s match. The gesture must have been inspiring because Tony had the best round of his life – albeit with a couple of matchplay ‘gimmes’ he had a 72! York Golf Club has been very supportive of Tony’s cause, publicising his activities and encouraging fellow members to get involved. If he can’t play at his home club, he’ll find another that’s open, or, failing that, go to a driving range or roll up to the club professional’s indoor studio. He estimates he has played well over 850 rounds of golf, broken only by that holiday. In doing so, he has raised more than £3,000 for Parkinson’s UK and continues to explore different ways of raising both money and awareness. An auction of donated memorabilia is in the pipeline, with Tony also getting involved in the Sport Parkinsons activity and charity group. He has also been nominated in the York Sports Awards in the Community Champion category, to be held on April 20th.
“After the startling diagnosis that I had an incurable disease, I accepted the fact that there is currently no cure, but sitting at home and waiting for a miracle cure was not the way forward for me,” he added. “Apart from the physical aspect my mental health and well-being would probably suffer. “Looking to the future I had to stay positive. Playing golf and the associated social side both on the course and in the clubhouse certainly helps. “I am not embarrassed by my symptoms, neither do I openly try to hide them. I am always willing to discuss my symptoms if asked. “I feel it’s important to raise awareness that PD is the fastest growing neurological disease in the world. It’s a win, win situation for Parkinson’s and people with Parkinson’s. “I conclude that playing golf and the exaggerated movement of ‘swinging a golf club’ has been beneficial to both my physical and mental wellbeing, which are in a good place at present.” A father of three and grandfather to two, Tony Bruce saves his final word of thanks to one very special person. “I cannot find the words to thank my wonderful wife Anne, for her unconditional love and support during this journey we are travelling with an unknown future.” Tony ’s Just Giving page is at www.justgiving.com/ fundraising/anthony-bruce1