Tuesday, May 12 1992
I will head
down to Houston for the Doug Sanders Celebrity Golf Tournament. This
professional/amateur tournament is held to raise money for charity. My
personal motivation for attending this event is that there may be three
astronauts participating in the celebrity portion of the tournament on
Thursday and Friday.
have the extra distinction of being three of the twelve men who have
walked on the Moon. One of these moonwalkers, I have met before.
That would be Alan Shepard. The other two, I have not met.
They are the first and last men on the Moon, Neil Armstrong and Eugene
Cernan. Meeting Neil is probably the “Holy Grail” of astronaut
autograph collecting. As of last Friday Neil was still scheduled to
along with me
down to Houston will be Andy Sheppard and my fiancée's 10 year
old son, Toby. Andy is friend of mine and over the years we have
attended many events related to space exploration.
When we arrive in
Houston, we are supposed to meet up with another space enthusiast. I
have only recently become acquainted with at work. His name is Chris
going to stay
in the same hotel that the celebrities are staying in. It is our
hope that we will get a chance to introduce ourselves to these three
May 13, 1992
left Dallas at
about 2:40 PM Wednesday afternoon. We arrived at the hotel in
Houston at about 6:30 PM.
around the parking lot,
Andy asked me what Chris looked like. Andy and Chris had never
met before. While I was trying to
describe Chris, Andy asked, “You mean that guy over there that looks
like an ax murderer?” I looked at the person that Andy referred
to and sure
enough that was Chris.
I was checking
into the hotel, entertainer Robert Goulet was checking in at the
counter next to me. After we checked in, we grabbed a quick meal
a local restaurant. We returned to the hotel after dinner and sat
down in lounge area of the hotel to relax.
television actor from the 1970s television series "Mannix" came over to
the lounge. He seemed in good spirits so we approached him for an
autograph. I shook his hand and thanked him for the autograph and
asked him if he was playing in the Tournament tomorrow. His reply
was "You bet your sweet ass I am!" I was rather surprised that he
responded this way, but he probably had a few drinks under his belt by
closed down the
lounge at about 10:00 PM so we went into the main hotel bar to see
who might still around. Robert Goulet was in there at a table
wife. Chris and Andy went over to get an autograph of Goulet,
while I stayed at the bar. I sent Toby over to get an autograph from
from meeting the Goulets, he had a big smile on his face. Toby
exclaimed, “He kissed me on the cheek, Robert Goulet kissed me!”
Toby then told me that Chris and Andy were sitting down at the
Goulets table. At that point I decided to join them rather than
stay by myself at the bar.
a nice if not
sometimes bizarre conversation. For the most part the
bizarre aspects of the conversation were between Chris and Mr.
Goulet. Occasionally during the conversation, Mr. Goulet would
out in to a bar from a song. He was having a great time.
and Goulet turned towards Toby and said, “Young man, you should be in
bed. Furthermore, so should I.” We thanked Mr. Goulet for
hospitality and Chris asked him to sign an index card.
retired to our
hotel room. After we had got there Chris looked at the card that
Goulet had signed for him. The inscription was, “Chris, what are
you doing? Robert Goulet.” Perhaps no more profound words had
ever been written.
not see any
astronauts yet, but it was certainly a fun to meet Robert
Goulet and Mike Connors. There was one bit of bad news that we
found out that night. The schedule for the next mornings tee
times did not list Gene Cernan. Apparently Mr. Cernan had a
conflicting engagement and would not be participating in the tournament.
least Armstrong and
Shepard were still listed on the schedule. With those two
playing, Thursday should still be a fantastic day.
May 14, 1992
woke up with a migraine headache on Thursday. We felt sorry
behind at the hotel room, but there was nothing that we could do
for him. Toby and I got a ride over to the tournament with Chris.
supposed to tee off at 9:10 AM. Armstrong's tee time was 1:10
PM. We watched Shepard tee off and then followed his group around
for the first 9 holes.
talk with Shepard at times in between holes. Chris asked Mr.
Armstrong was going to be there. Shepard's reply was, "He is here, but
he is really pretty shy. In the last few years Neil's gotten a
lot better with dealing with the public. However, he is still a really
shy man. When we were test pilots at Edwards Air Force Base, Neil
wife stayed up in the mountains most of the time. They never had
much to do with anybody else." It was interesting to get this
perspective of the first man who walked on the Moon from the first
American who flew in space.
ninth hole, we
asked if it would be all right to get a picture sitting next to Shepard
in his golf cart. He said "Sure!"
When I took a photo of
Chris and Toby in the cart with Shepard, I said "Okay, on 3; ready 1,
2, 3." Shepard said "You
know you didn't have to count that way,
you should have counted 3, 2, 1."
to a countdown was fun. At one point one of the other members in
Shepard's golf group asked Shepard if he knew “How many astronauts it
took to screw in a light bulb?” Shepard answered "Three, but the light bulb
weighs 7,000 pounds."
rather amazed at
the small number of spectators that followed Shepard's group around the
golf course, there were probably less than 8 people including the 3 of
big crowds seemed to be drawn to Arnold Palmer and other sports
time to take a
break for lunch. Lunch was good, but it was a rather awkward
situation. Chris grew up for the most part in Australia. As
such, he was not inclined to tip the wait staff at restaurants.
I was rather embarrassed. It took some doing, but I finally convinced
Chris that leaving a tip at a country club restaurant
was the appropriate thing to do.
over to the
number 1 tee at about 12:30. They were running about 20 minutes ahead
of schedule. Toby saw a guy next to a golf cart and asked if that
was Armstrong. The guy had on a white golf visor, white shirt,
and teal blue trousers. He was bent over working on his clubs. I
could not see his face.
person was out in
the public area all alone. There was no one around him. With this
anonymity, I assumed it could not have been the first man to have
walked on the Moon. He finished the work on his clubs and stood
the golf visor
on, it was still difficult to get a good
look at the person's face. This man looked fairly tall. Based
upon that, I still did
not think this was Neil Armstrong. After all, weren't
astronauts supposed to be on the shorter side so that they would fit in
that moment, a
went over to ask for an autograph. It now became obvious that
this indeed was Neil Armstrong. We joined in, and Armstrong
signed a photo for each of us.
showed up to ask Armstrong some questions about space. The night
before, STS-49 space shuttle astronauts Pierre Thuot, Rick Hieb, and
Tom Akers completed the first three man spacewalk in history. In
a daring EVA, they recovered the Intelsat satellite by grabbing it with
their hands. It was interesting to be able to hear Neil respond to the
interviewer's questions in person.
Toby and I then
followed Neil's group around the course. After the 12th
hole, Toby and Chris became very fatigued from the heat and
humidity. In May the humidity in Houston can be pretty
oppressive. I chose to continue to be a member of Armstrong's gallery.
Toby and Chris headed on back into the clubhouse.
started out on the course there were probably about 10 spectators
following along. By the time of the 13th hole, I was the only
spectator left. So for the next 4 holes, it was just Armstrong,
golf professional Larry Ziegler, four amateur golfers, and
myself. I was a gallery of one.
Armstrong's notoriety, who would have thought that at any point he
would draw only one spectator? It was kind of mind boggling to be
there and be the only person watching Neil play golf with his group.
hole some other spectators did join the gallery. Andy did make it out
to the course just at the end of Armstrong's game and was able to meet
him and receive his autograph. That was good, as it would have
been awful if we had this opportunity and Andy should miss it for a
should mention that
I noticed one “super collector” out and about the golf course that
day. This person would go around the course ahead of Armstrong's
group and beg people to get a photo signed for him by Armstrong.
After Armstrong's entourage passed, this person would go back and
collect the booty. Does anyone wonder why some celebrities get turned
off from signing autographs?
end of the day,
with Armstrong very tired from the outing, the super collector stopped
Armstrong yet one more time. He asked Armstrong to sign a
baseball. Neil declined, but the collector persisted, begging,
“It's for my kid.” About a year later, I ran into this super
collector again and in casual conversation, I asked him, how his kid
was doing? The super collector's response was, “I don't have any
the type of
behavior that the super collector exhibited, we are probably fortunate
that he does not have any kids.
May 15, 1992
Armstrong's tee times were within 15 minutes of each other. We
followed Shepard for a couple of holes, and then followed Armstrong for
wanted to get
Armstrong to autograph a Space Shots card for him. When
Toby asked Mr. Armstrong, the response was, “I will autograph anything
else for you except a trading card.” I asked if he would be
willing to autograph a book. Armstrong agreed, so I was able to
get him to autograph a copy of "First On The Moon".
able to get this
book signed by Armstrong was special for me. After all it was
credited as being written by the Apollo 11 crew along with a couple by
the name of Farmer. Also, in this very same book, I was able to
previously get Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to sign. Now, I
had the entire set of Apollo 11 crew signatures on a single page.
Armstrong, wished him the very best of luck, and shook his hand. It was
hard to believe that a meeting such as that was even possible.
Five years before this, I would never have dreamt about meeting any
astronaut, yet alone the first man to have walked on the Moon.
objectives accomplished at this tournament, we chose to return home
rather than to stay the whole day for the remainder of the tournament.
In the past two days I had walked around 31 holes of the golf course.
It was hot. It was humid. We were exhausted. We were elated.
left the Houston
area at about 1 PM on Friday and got home at about 5:30 PM. Much to my
surprise and delight, I was informed that there would be an opportunity
to meet another moonwalker that weekend. On Sunday night, in Dallas,
Apollo 14 moonwalker Doctor Edgar Mitchell would be making an
appearance. He was giving a lecture that was open to the public
at the Unity Church.
May 17, 1992
to the church
fairly early, so that we would get a good seat for Doctor Mitchell's
lecture. His talk covered concepts of cosmic consciousness and
pretty far out
stuff. To give you a flavor of the evening, at the beginning of
the lecture, Doctor Mitchell had us sit back and close our eyes. We
were supposed to imagine that we had floated out of our body and could
look back upon our bodies sitting in the chairs.
I have not been
able to transcend into the realm of enlightenment that Doctor Mitchell
professes to have reached. It was a really strange lecture. The
subject matter was needless to say a little difficult to grasp.
Doctor Mitchell was gracious enough to meet people and sign autographs
for them. He was very warm and friendly. We met three moonwalkers
in three days. That was one fourth of all the men who had walked
on the moon.
Armstrong and Mitchell brought the total number of moonwalkers that I
have met up to this point to 9. I still needed to meet, Pete
Conrad, Dave Scott, and Gene Cernan. It became a quest of mine to
meet all twelve.
confident that I
would someday meet Pete Conrad and Gene Cernan. However Dave
Scott seemed to be much more elusive. Scott perhaps would be harder to
meet than even Neil Armstrong, himself. It would take a great deal of
luck to pull off a meeting with Scott.
Sometimes you do get
lucky though. Evidence of that was the chance meeting of Doctor
Mitchell. For the Armstrong encounter, I had been planning that
meeting for about 6 months. Mitchell's lecture just fell into my
lap in a matter of two days.