For the majority of their lives, Tom Leonardis, age 76, and Mark Sutton, age 64, were typical American men, raising their families in the great city of Austin. Tom was the CEO of Ember Industries while Mark was enjoying the life of retirement. They had never met. Within seconds, although a few years apart, the courses of their lives were changed forever by
a single event – a stroke.
Their ability to express themselves through language was taken away, and they were presented with the challenge of finding their way back to normal life. After completing physical, cognitive and speech therapy provided by their insurance, they found themselves still struggling to connect with their friends and family as they had before.
Following several peer recommendations, they enrolled in the intensive therapy boot camps offered by Austin Speech Labs and met during a group therapy session. Between exercises, a topic that kept coming up was their shared passion for the sport of golf.
Through the fight to regain their ability to communicate, verbally and non-verbally, they found comfort in occasional silence. Golf was the perfect outlet, and who else better to share this with than a fellow stroke survivor and golf enthusiast?
Tom and Mark started frequenting the greens together, playing 18 holes and forgetting about the limitations they felt outside the course. All they had to focus on was that perfect swing. Although the conversation was often light, through silence and a love of golf, they became best
“He lived and breathed golf,” explained Tom’s wife, Rose. “Playing with Mark has been incredible because they both feel they are in the same boat. Golf is important to him… I think as important as getting his speech back!”
Mark’s daughter, Ashley, says “It’s fun seeing things pop-up on his calendar. Who’s Tom? It’s his friend from Austin Speech Labs that he plays golf with on a regular basis.”
The journey of stroke recovery isn’t simple, but with support, dedication and a calm state of mind, it is possible. For Tom and Mark, their friendship and their golf games provide just that. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the power of golf.
About Austin Speech Labs:
A stroke is a scary and often isolating event, but it’s not the end of the road. Stroke recovery is a process that takes time, support and, above all, relentless dedication. If you or anyone you know is looking for affordable, intensive speech therapy for stroke survivors, please visit
www.austinspeechlabs.org or give us a call at (512) 992-0575.