SUMMERVILLE — Fred Gutierrez is a study in faith and determination.
On Tuesday, the 57-year-old Moncks Corner man plans to play 36 holes of golf, and predicts he’ll shoot in the 90s for each 18-hole round.
Maybe that’s not a big deal to most avid golfers, but for Gutierrez it will be something of a miracle. In 1996, Gutierrez, a U.S. Navy veteran then living in San Diego, was shot in the head. It was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, he said.
Not expected to survive, he beat those odds and then proved wrong his doctors, who said he would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Gutierrez is paralyzed on the left side of his body, a condition known as Left Hemiparesis. He said botox injections and acupuncture have relieved the pain and relaxed the muscles, enabling him to make great strides on and off the golf course.
A couple of years ago, a friend at Summerville Community Church built a set of golf clubs for Gutierrez, who promptly put them in a closet for a few months. Gutierrez said at the time he was doing what many middle-age men do — sit at home, watch TV, eat and gain weight.
“What am I going to do, a one-handed person? I’m going to embarrass myself on the golf course,” Gutierrez said.
“I finally got the courage to go out on the golf range and hit a bucket of balls. The next step was to get enough courage to go out and play golf.”
He called it an impossible mountain to climb. Gutierrez had played golf left-handed prior to the incident that led to his paralysis, so he not only was playing with one hand, he was hitting golf shots from a different side. Wanting to improve, he approached fellow church member Rich O’Brien, a golf professional who also had made a miraculous recovery from a golf cart accident in which he was given “a very low chance for survival.”
O’Brien, who had been the pro at Chip Shots Par-3 and worked at Pine Forest and Crowfield, began tutoring Gutierrez. The two played in the Summerville Country Club member-guest golf tournament last August.
“We were kindred spirits,” O’Brien said. “Fred has told me I have inspired him in many ways, and he has inspired me.”
Gutierrez said the purpose of Tuesday’s 8½-mile journey — “For the Glory of God Golf Marathon” — is two-fold. He wants to express his faith, and he wants to let others know about things that have helped him in his recovery, particularly botox injections. Any funds raised from the event will be donated to Gifting Warriors, a local non-profit for veterans.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s capable of walking 45 holes,” O’Brien said. “A couple of weeks ago he walked 33 holes, and the only reason we didn’t finish was we ran out of light.”
O’Brien said the marathon will begin around 9:45 a.m. on the back nine. They hope to finish somewhere between 4:45 and 5:30 p.m. on the ninth green. Approximately 50 people have already indicated they will show up and cheer them on for the final holes.
Rich O’Brien (left) and paralyzed golfer Fred Gutierrez are playing a 36-hole golf marathon Tuesday at Summerville Country Club.×
Fred Gutierrez had to learn to play golf one-handed after being paralyzed on his left side, the result of a gunshot wound to the head in 1996.×
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