July 16th of 1993 there was supposed to be a benefit golf
to support the Spaceweek organization. The name of the tournament was
"Shoot For The Moon Golf Tournament". The
cost to play in
it was $125.
The added attraction of this golf tournament was that it offered an
to play with astronauts.
friend Mark Shelton planned on playing in the tournament.
He tried to convince me to play as well. I
deferred because I really didn’t know how to play golf and I didn’t
things turned out, the tournament was postponed from July until October. Mark was disappointed at the postponement,
but it was good fortune for me.
delay gave me time to take some golf lessons. I
would have time to work on my swing before the
tournament. I knew I would still be a
but I thought I could become passable for a charity tournament.
was only one problem with the October date that was selected. The date
was October 25th and October 24th was my first
anniversary. I didn’t want to be away
from my wife. My wife is a very
person and encouraged me to participate.
fall I took some lessons and practiced at the local driving range.
driving range was convenient for me because it was just across the
where I worked.
and I drove down to Houston
on October 24th. The
tournament started in the afternoon, so we had some time to pass. Mark arranged for us to visit Building 4S at
JSC. This was the building where the
astronaut offices were located. We were
going to pick up a couple of books from the mail room on the fifth
floor. Mark had left these books there for
on a previous trip.
few times that I have been in the building with the astronaut offices I
always been awed. To walk the same
hallways with people whose job it is to fly in space is just amazing.
were standing by the elevator when out came John Young.
Here was a man who walked on the moon.
I had read in a book that when John walked
down the hallway, he didn’t greet or look at people.
he just walked along and looked down at the floor.
His behavior was so pronounced that some his
astronauts thought that Young was mad at them. Later they learned was
Young’s way. That story was confirmed
for me as I watched Young walk past us.
and I rode the elevator up to the floor where the astronaut offices are. We picked up our books and headed back to the
elevator. We were waiting to go back
down stairs when a female voice behind me said, “Jerry, how are you?”
was stunned that anyone would recognize me on this hallowed ground. I turned around and realized that it was
Linda Godwin. My family had become
friends of Linda’s through a school visit to our children’s school. I really did not expect to see her and
did not expect to be recognized from behind. It
made me feel like I was somebody important.
explained to Linda that Mark and I were down in Houston
to play in the Spaceweek Golf Tournament. She
asked me how my game was. I
kind of chuckled and told her that I wasn’t very good, but I thought it
be fun anyway.
had one more task that he wanted to accomplish at the Johnson Space Center. He
wanted to deliver some flowers to Mission
Control. Mark and his family have sent a bouquet of flowers to mission
during every mission since the Challenger tragedy.
By coincidence shuttle mission STS-58 was in
orbit at the time we were in Houston. This
time Mark wanted to personally deliver
the flowers rather than have them delivered by a florist.
Director Leroy Cain met us at the building that houses Mission Control. I thought we would simply hand the flowers to
him and that would be it. Instead Mr.
Cain had us sign in with security. He
was going to take us inside of Mission Control during an actual space
an artifact from the military space missions, the act of getting
enter Mission Control was a rather elaborate process.
We filled out a form and then were given
special badges. In private Mark and I
were each given our own separate passwords. They
were not written down; we just had to remember
Cain then took us to a big stainless steel door that resembled a vault
a bank. He pressed a call button and
informed the security agent who we were. Each
of us then had to enter in our secret password. I
was sweating and hoping that I didn’t
forget the word or mistype it on the key pad.
door was buzzed and Cain opened it to lead us inside.
We wound around a few narrow hallways and
came to another door. Cain opened this
and there we were inside of Mission Control. Behind
the consoles were the flight controllers
Hamm was the Flight Director on duty that morning.
She was very pregnant at the time.
We were standing next to her, when she made a
call on her headset. She brought all of
the flight controllers on the communication loop. Ms.
Hamm then announced, “Mark Shelton is
here this morning to personally deliver the roses.”
A round of applause went up. You
could tell how much the flight
controllers appreciated Mark’s act of generosity and thoughtfulness
a morning this was. Recognized by an
astronaut in the astronaut office and then standing on the Mission
floor during an actual space mission. It
was a magical time.
all of this you might think the golf tournament would be anticlimactic. Well, it did not disappoint, it was an
and I drove over to the country club where the tournament was being
played. We took our golf clubs out of the
headed towards the clubhouse.
before we got to the point where we could check in, we were greeted by
“super collector”. I had seen this
person several times before at space events around Houston. He
made a comment to me boasting about his
golf handicap. His boast really hit me
the wrong way. I retorted, “Well some of
us actually have to work for a living.”
and I were pared with Space Shuttle Commander Don Williams and Charles
Buckley. Mark and I knew who Don Williams
was, but we
had no idea who Charles Buckley was. Williams
introduced us to Buckley and said that
Charlie was known at the Kennedy Space Center
as “007”. During the historic Apollo 11 mission, Buckley was giving the
number 007 and the nickname stuck.
Buckley was the head of security at the space center for 21 years
January 1960 and July 1981. In his
capacity as head of security, he personally escorted every astronaut to
launch pad during those 21 years. Charles
Buckley was a legend in his own right.
the introductions we were told to call them Charlie and Don. These guys were very cordial.
Mark decided that he would ride in a golf
cart with Charlie and I would ride in a golf cart with Don.
was shocked when Don asked me to drive the golf cart.
Here was a man who was experienced at driving
vehicles at Mach 25 and he wanted me to drive. I
protested, but Don insisted.
told us about the rules for the day. He
told us that the 90 degree rule was in effect. I
had no clue what that meant. I
was after all not an experienced golfer. I
would later find out what that rule meant.
got up to the first tee and took turns teeing off.
My shot wasn’t great, but I did hit the ball
in the air and didn’t whiff it. We got
in our carts to proceed to the areas where the golf balls lay.
knowing any better, I drove the cart in a line straight toward either
my ball. Suddenly I realize that the
is waving at me and screaming his head off. He
was really mad.
was dumb founded. I didn’t know what the
problem was. Don explained that the 90
degree rule means that you drive on the cart path and only drive on the
in a 90 degree angle to your ball. That
rule was in place because it had rained significantly in Houston
and the course was very wet. The 90
degree rule minimized damage to the wet sod.
was totally embarrassed. I wanted to
crawl into a hole and hide. I profusely apologized to Don, telling him
sorry I was for driving improperly and getting in trouble with the Marshall.
I thought we were going to get kicked off of the course. Without pause,
turns to me and says, “F*** him if he can take a joke.”
simple phrase set the world right again. Don
didn’t think I was a total idiot for messing up. His
simple off color remark put my mind at
thing that put my mind further at ease was the course beer lady. When she came around with refreshments I was
quick to grab a cold beer. Don and
Charlie refrained from having beer, but I was going to enjoy myself.
one of the holes, Mark got up to tee off. He
did what I had feared. He
whiffed and missed the ball entirely. It
was a good thing that was Mark and not me. He
handled it with dignity and grace while I
probably would have turned
three shades of red.
rule that we were told was that if you shot lands in someone’s yard,
not go into the yard to retrieve your ball. I
didn’t have that issue either but Don did. I
was amazed to see Don leap over the wrought
iron fence to retrieve his errant ball. The
lesson that I learned was that if you’ve got the
right stuff it is
okay to bend the rules.
that time, I had another driving incident. I
was rolling us along at a pretty good clip when we
came up to a small
ditch. It was a little deeper than I
thought and I didn’t slow down enough. We
got quite a jar when we crossed that depression. I
don’t think Don was too happy with that and
I was more careful after that.
got to about the 10th hole and there was a brand new car
tee box. A local car dealer was going to
give the car to anyone who hit a hole in one on that hole.
Standing near the car and looking hot was a
gorgeous woman in short shorts. Don
turned to me and made a comment about that woman that only fraternity
had to smile. I was beginning to come to
the realization that Astronauts were just people. There
were talented people but still people.
Over all of my years I had placed astronauts up on a pedestal of hero
worship. When all is said and done they
really were no different that you or I.
got near the last two or three holes. The
beer lady came around again, but only had two
beers left. Since I had previously had a
the earlier part of the course, I told Don and Charlie that they should
last beers. I could wait until we got
back to the clubhouse.
opened the beer and took a drink. He
then turned to me with the beer extended and offered me a drink from
beer. Wow, I had an opportunity to share
a beer with a man who commanded the space shuttle. I
declined his offer, but in retrospect, I should have taken him up on it.
got back to the clubhouse and found that our team had finished near the
in the tournament. I was not a big
I was just glad that I could hit the ball and not hurt anybody.
we walked past the golf carts, I noticed that the “super collector” was
golf cart with an astronaut. He had that
poor astronaut signing 30 or 40 photos.
astronauts that played in the tournament were Buzz Aldrin, Gene Cernan,
Duke, Stu Roosa, Joe Kerwin, Mike McCulley, and Mike Coats.
the clubhouse we were provided with after game sandwich. Mark and I
at our table by moonwalker Charlie Duke. Duke
has always been friendly and that day was no
and I got a few autographs from the astronauts on hand.
I remember getting Stu Roosa to sign some
Apollo 14 covers as he had a drink by the bar. I
had Gene Cernan sign a book and he asked me what I
was going to do
with the autograph. It seemed like a
fair question when you had the likes of the “super collector” running
around. I told Cernan that I had a
library at home where I collected signed books on space exploration.
disappeared before we were able to talk with him. We
were hoping to get Aldrin to sign a photo.
It was disappointing to miss that opportunity.
little while later the tournament people handed out nice 8X10 color
each of the team members. We noticed
that our team members Don Williams and Charlie Buckley had already left. We took their photos and told the tournament
organizer that we would get the photos delivered to them.
knew which hotel Charlie Buckley was staying at. We
called his room and told him about his
team photo and asked if he would mind signing ours.
That was fine with him so we headed to the
hotel and went up to his room.
knocked on the door and Charlie opened it. I
was somewhat shocked as Charlie had just gotten
out of the shower and
opened the door wearing only a towel. Never
the less he signed our team photos and we left
him with his photo. He also gave us his
address to write him a
letter for more information about his career.
also learned that afternoon that Buzz Aldrin was going to be at some
space conference that evening. Mark was
able to talk our way into the exhibit hall for the conference and sure
Aldrin was there.
was somewhat unusual but there were bartenders selling drinks in the
hall. We saw Aldrin holding a drink that
was nearly empty. A man approached
Aldrin and asked if he would sign a photo for him.
Aldrin said, “Sure if you buy me a drink.”
while later we approached Aldrin and he
signed for us without asking for a drink. It
capped off a nearly perfect day.