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"In golf you need to keep your emotions in check, not too high and not too low."

 

Major Difference
When the U.S. Senior Open comes to town, Hopkins staff will handle the medical emergencies, while hoping to catch a glimpse of Palmer, Nicklaus and Player.

Roger Blumenthal at Caves Valley Golf Club, where he will head up the medical team for the 2002 U.S Senior Open.
One can debate the wisdom of holding a major golf tournament for men ages 50 and over on an expansive course with a tough terrain in Baltimore at the end of June. But there is no denying what an economic and PR plum it will be for the city to host the 2002 U.S. Senior Open Championship.

It is no small feat hosting a "major," one of just 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association. While it's not like having the Olympics come to town, it still will mean preparing for an influx of 30,000 people and erecting the equivalent of a small city at Caves Valley Golf Club, the hilly course in Baltimore County's hunt country where the tournament takes place June 24-30.

In fact, the operations manager for the event moved to town two years ago to start working out the logistics. They included gathering a medical team that works behind the scenes at any major in case contestants or spectators fall ill or get injured.

Hopkins seemed an obvious place to turn, and there was one stand-out candidate who seemed made to organize the event: Roger Blumenthal. The Hopkins cardiologist and avid golfer has run his own tournament since 1990 to raise money for the preventive cardiology center he directs, collecting up to $40,000 each year.

Blumenthal started playing golf in kindergarten while accompanying his father, a pediatrician, to the driving range. By his teen years, he was playing junior tournaments and was captain of his high school golf team. That level of skill, however, would only take him so far.

"There's a big difference between shooting 80 and shooting 70," explains Blumenthal. "Golf is a sport where an awful lot of people try to master the game, but very few can make a living out of it."

Still, Blumenthal has never wavered in his love of the game, which he is now passing down to his 2-year-old son. Golf relaxes him, gives him a sense of accomplishment and is a good excuse to get together with friends, he says. It also has taught him some valuable life lessons.

"My father, coaches and teachers all tried to instill in me to try to keep an even temper," he says. "In golf you need to keep your emotions in check, not too high and not too low. The way you react to golf teaches you how to react to challenges in life."

In the last week of June, Blumenthal gets to merge his two passions. As chair of the medical committee, one of his biggest jobs was assembling a team of 120 nurses, physicians and emergency medicine technicians. He had little difficulty recruiting fellow golf afficionados, since a half-day manning one of the three medical tents entitles each volunteer to credentials for the week. Blumenthal tapped all the major Baltimore hospitals and will have a surprising array of specialties represented, from psychiatry to plastic surgery (in case spectators get beaned by a flying golf ball).

Blumenthal also did his research, studying statistics from prior tournaments and traveling to last year's Senior Open venue outside Boston to meet the medical team there. After lightning strikes, dehydration and heart failure rank high on the worry list. "We're concerned that if people have health problems, whether heart or lung or neurologic, the relative dehydration and heat can worsen things," says Blumenthal. So might the rule that doesn't allow the 156 professional and amateur golfers to use golf carts.

Blumenthal expects to be busy during the Senior Open and admits that organizing the medical volunteers during the past 18 months was more than he bargained for. Still, he is anticipating seeing the idols of his childhood: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. He keeps a poster of Nicklaus at Pebble Beach on the wall of his office in Timonium.

"It may be the last time in my life," he says, "that I'll get to see them."

-MEM

 

 

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