‘I Can’t Hit It Far…But I Can Hit It Straight’
By William Browning
COFFEEVILLE, Miss – Guy Dale Shaw didn’t take up golf until the second half of his fourth decade.
“I had to get my last child out of school,” said Shaw, 70, explaining why it took him so long to come to what is now his beloved pastime. He was 46 then, in 1983, when he gripped that first PING.
And here he is 24 years, two livers, and a ton of course rounds later, and the Coffeeville resident has won his first golf tournament.
On May 7, Shaw – along with team members Andy Shaw (a son), Kent Smith and Phillip Dickey – finished first at the Third Annual Transplant Fore Life Golf Classic, which benefited the Methodist University Hospital Transplant Resource Center, in Memphis. The tournament was held at the Irene Golf Course.
“We knew we had had a good round, but we had no idea we did good enough to win it,” said Shaw of the tournament. The team shot a 54.
“We shot a 50 the year before, and came in second,” he added. “But when they called our names out this year, they knew where this bunch from Ole Miss was at.”
For Shaw, it has been a long, hard and tired road the last few years. One that he himself talks about with awe.
Almost two years ago Shaw found himself, in his own words, “laid up in the Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute in Memphis needing a transplant, and for five days I was dead. Basically I was a vegetable.”
At one point during the ordeal, a doctor told Shaw, who had recently had his golf clubs stolen, not to worry with getting any new ones. The doctor reasoned Shaw wouldn’t live to use them.
It was a liver that he needed, and eventually Shaw – Yalobusha County’s tax assessor from 1964 until 2000 – got it.
That first Transplant Fore Life Golf Classic Shaw took part in, occurred just six months after his transplant, and saw him need the assistance of a walker. But come this past May 7, and Shaw needed no walker or cane.
“I was determined to play in it,” he said of the tournament, before adding, “and I helped the team out with a ‘birdie’ on one hole.”
Part of his therapy since the transplant has been a round of golf a-day, a chore he completes regularly at the Water Valley Country Club’s course.
“I can’t hit it far really, but I can hit it straight,” he said of his game, noting an ‘eagle’ he managed recently on hole number 12 on the Water Valley course.
Shaw cites his friends (namely the Yalobusha Scramblers), his faith and his family as his inspiration.
One of his friends, Linda Rae Shuffield, worked under Shaw for 23 years, before becoming the county’s tax assessor in 2000. Shuffield said that over the years, her friendship with Shaw evolved into more of a father-daughter relationship.
“When I think of Guy Dale Shaw, I think of the fact that he gave me a chance, he believed in me,” said Shuffield, who was all of 21 when hired by Shaw. “I guess throughout everybody’s life, you’re going to have to have someone believe in you at some point. And for me, (Shaw) was that person who believed in me.”
Shuffield said Shaw taught her “a 1,000 things” during their time working together. But she said that the most important thing involved her current work.
“He always told me that being a servant is a good thing, but that being a public servant is an honor.”
During an interview with the Herald, Shaw steered himself away from any sentimental ramblings.
“He’s got one of the biggest hearts in the world, but he doesn’t like letting it show,” Shuffield noted.
A few days after the formal interview, Shaw, obviously deciding to let it show, brought in a note that read:
“Only through the grace of Jesus Christ has my life been possible. God sent his army of angels to rescue me in my time of need. Thanks to my prayer buddies for talking to Jesus.”
After his interview Saturday, Shaw was on his way to help his mother, Mattie Shaw, celebrate her 99th birthday.
“I couldn’t be doing any better,” said Guy Dale Shaw. “I’ve been busy my whole life.”