By Tim Hipps
FORT BELVOIR, Va. – Double-below-the-knee amputee Dale Beatty was the star of the show at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legendary guitarist Dave Mason’s inaugural Feelin’ Alright Golf Classic Oct. 7 at Fort Belvoir Golf Club.
The retired North Carolina Army National Guard staff sergeant who lost both lower legs to an anti-tank mine in Iraq wasted no time letting it be known that he came from Statesville, N.C., to play some serious golf – and in due time, the drums, too.
His first towering tee shot – more than 220 yards down the right – hit a tree and kicked back toward the fairway. Because he was playing a four-person scramble with only two teammates, Beatty took a courtesy second tee shot for his group and hit the same tree, with an even better kick back onto the fairway.
Beatty’s second shot on the par 4 No. 9 was again the best among his disbelieving trio, leaving them in great shape to get up and down to open with a par. That, however, was not good enough for Beatty, whose chip shot from 25 yards took one hop and disappeared into the cup for a birdie.
Beatty’s old-school partners high-fived the 32-year-old Army veteran until he nearly fell off his prosthetic legs. All three men then proceeded to play one of the best rounds of golf of their lives, and certainly one of the most memorable.
Beatty remembers his worst memory like it was yesterday.
“Ten months after being in country, Nov. 15, 2004, we were on combat patrol and the vehicle I was in hit at least one, maybe two, anti-tank mines and we were in a Humvee,” Beatty recalled. “The explosions went off right underneath me on the passenger side, and eventually it took both my legs below the knee.”
His right leg was amputated that day, the left a week later at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
“I was missing the heel bone and the doc’s prognosis was two years of therapy, never run again, never walk without pain again, so I told him to go ahead and amputate it,” Beatty said. “I played golf in high school, but I was never as good as I am now.”
Once he settled in back home and got the Family squared away, golf became Beatty’s saving grace. As a trustee for Fisher House, he often represents the organization by playing benefit tournaments, as he does for Purple Heart Homes, an organization he co-founded with former Spc. John Gallina and serves as chief executive officer.
“I got to play golf with Rory Sabbatini last August at the Deutsche Bank Pro-Am, and he’s a really big supporter of the Fisher House and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. I just kind of got the bug, I guess, a little bit. I can’t run marathons. I play golf. I play with the kids and I coach my kids’ sports.”
Beatty’s boys, ages 6 and 8, are not sure what to think.
“When I deployed the first time in 2003, we got leave and we got to come home around Halloween and I had left in early September,” Beatty said. “From then until October, my year-and-a-half-old son didn’t know me. He was scared of me. We were planning to have a second child and we decided to wait until I got back from deployment but it was already too late, my wife was already pregnant.
“So here she is at home with a one-year-old and she’s pregnant with another one and I’m going to Iraq. So my youngest son, when we left Walter Reed, he had spent half his life in the Fisher House. He grew up in the Fisher House, literally, so my kids were exposed to that element of seeing so many people just like me that it’s not a big deal to them, as long as I’m dad.”
Beatty, who also plays the drums for therapy with a band named “Southern Fried,” thought Dave Mason’s Feelin’ Alright Tournament would be a classic venue to help C*A*M*M*O, the Center for American Military Music Opportunities, and WVFV, Work Vessels For Veterans.
Playing a solid round of golf on Fort “Beautiful to See,” opening on the drums for a living legend Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, supporting groups that support troops – Beatty had plenty to be Feelin’ Alright about as he headed south on I-95 Thursday night – long before Mason finished his gig at the Fort Belvoir Clubhouse. As CEO, Beatty had a business to run the next morning in Statesville.
As for Mason, one of the founding members of Traffic who unveiled a remake of “Mr. Fantasy” for the first time in public at Fort Belvoir, the first military installation he has played, the benefit was something “that doesn’t require any thought, really, for us – it’s just the right thing to do.
“I would hope in the future we’ll do more of them.”
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski