Gary Lindeblad gave his time, money, heart and soul, and nearly had it all taken away.
In 1999, Lindeblad developed a rare form of lymphoma called Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia. “At the time it was gloom and doom. It was an incurable, terminal cancer, two to five years to live,” remembered Lindeblad. “But I wanted to prove them wrong, so I did.”
Now almost 11 years since his diagnosis and through an arduous battle, Lindeblad, a North Central High School (Spokane) and Eastern Washington University graduate and golf Hall of Fame member, is ready to resume his golf swing competitively. At 50, Lindeblad endured pinched nerves, neck surgery and multiple knee operations. He missed the Senior PGA qualifying mark that year in 2001 with opening rounds of 74 and 79 (nine-over-par).
“Every time I’d get to where I was feeling good about golf, something else would go wrong, but I feel now that I’m ready to do it,” he said. “I truly believe golf is a mirror image of life in a not-so-dramatic sense. Everything can be going perfect in life – bam – next thing you know you’re in a car wreck or you find out you have cancer. That’s just the way it is, but a lot of it is how you handle it.”
Lindeblad’s can-do attitude helped him overcome numerous feats from his freshman year at EWU to present. In his years at Eastern, Lindeblad helped the Eagles earn three-straight Evergreen Conference titles and four NAIA District 1 titles, maintaining a 1970 average score of 74.5.
“Eastern was a great school for me. I’d say I attribute nearly all of my career success to it because the relationships that I’ve made in college were relationships that allowed me to pursue golf as a career,” he said.
When asked what his fondest memory from Eastern was, Lindeblad laughed, “You probably can’t print that. Honestly, it’s some of the professors I had. We became friends and I think that’s one thing people get at Eastern is a higher level of care that does not equate you to a dollar sign.”
Like his esteemed professors, teaching others was also a forte of Lindeblad. Bob Scott, current head pro at MeadowWood Golf Course, said in a 2005 issue of the Spokane Journal of Business, “Gary has been one of the biggest influences in my life, and not just golf. He was my mentor. No one has taught more people in the Spokane area than Gary. Part of the reason for the growth of golf in this area is that you have somebody like Gary teaching the game.”
More than 12 of Lindeblad’s former employees have become head golf pros or head coaches, a testament to his leadership abilities.
Some of Lindeblad’s post-grad accomplishments include becoming a golf pro, receiving more than 40 Inland Empire Chapter and Pacific Northwest Selection awards, and being named “Golf Professional of the Year” by Golf Business Magazine. He also founded the Rosaeurs Open golf tournament in 1988 and is the residing head pro at Indian Canyon Golf Course in Spokane.
The Roseaurs Open delves into Lindeblad’s altruistic nature. The tournament has conglomerated more than $2 million in direct donations to the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, generating excesses of $100,000 per year. The Crisis Nursery is a nonprofit organization helping abused children in the Spokane area find refuge and support.
“I think being the founder of [Rosaeurs Open] has got to be one of the most gratifying things I’ve done in golf. I have a soft spot for kids and a real soft spot for dogs, and so a lot of the drive for me was the children,” said Lindeblad. As for being inducted into the EWU athletics Hall of Fame September 2008, Lindeblad said, “It kind of validates your career, that’s probably the biggest thing. People notice you’ve worked your butt off your whole life and tried as much as you can to give back to the community and Eastern, and the people around here.”
These days, Lindeblad doesn’t get overly serious about golf or life. Besides trying to “avoid being the carbuncle on society’s foot,” which he never was, he’s the father of four boys, one of them adopted, and is enjoying his good health and tee time.
“The great thing about golf is you have the ability to touch someone’s life, even if it’s just for a minute, and sometimes forever. Always put your best foot forward.” That’s the philosophy that made Lindeblad a winner.