View Full Version : The Saturday Cup of Coffee with Eddy Davis

08-01-2011, 03:48 PM
The Statesman.com
By Kevin Robbins | Saturday, July 30, 2011, 08:01 AM

In our midst this morning is Eddy Davis, a city golf professional at Roy Kizer and Jimmy Clay who — yeah, I’ll say it — pens the finest scoreboard calligraphy outside of Far Hills, N.J. (If you’re skeptical, stick around until the end. If you’re not, I assume you’ve lost part of a $20 bill to Wes Short in the Tuesday skins game or you’ve seen Davis’s handiwork at State.)
At any rate, the 48-year-old father of two (Juliana, 13, and Jaden, 7) has a story that goes beyond his immense illustration skills. For one thing, he wasn’t much of a golfer as a kid growing up in Houston, where it took a long time for him to learn to steer his slice away from the monkey exhibit in Hermann Park.
For another, he recently had to save his own life.
So I just checked the coffee. The pot is decidedly half-full and Muny tough. Pretty rich too, in soulful kind of way.

The Saturday Cup: Where are you from?

Davis: I was born in Houston. Shortly thereafter we went to Germany for a couple of years, back to Fort Worth, then (were) re-stationed in Okinawa, then Korea, then back to the United States. My dad was in the military. He was in the Army. He was a staff sergeant, an enlisted guy.

Do you come from a golf family?

I think golf’s always been present, but baseball and football and tae kwon do were, at the time when I was growing up, what we were playing. I remember my dad gave me a club in Okinawa. I had taken his Hogans out to the base with, like, four of my friends. Dragged them, jumped the fence, scuffed them up and put them back. I remember, he had a club that said “Future Pro” on it. It was a Spalding club, a little persimmon head. He told me, “Hey, if you’ll do me a favor. If you want to play golf, take this out. Leave my Ben Hogan stuff in the garage.” That was my introduction to golf. I hit balls for a little bit but never really played. It was always baseball for me.

Did you go to high school in Houston?

I did. I went to Sharpstown and graduated in 1981.

Were you on the golf team there?

No. I was trying to play baseball. I thought I was pretty decent. I was a pitcher and a catcher, and I would play first on occasion.

You have a talent for scoreboard calligraphy, but friends know you as an accomplished illustrator of many forms. When did you see that side of yourself? How old were you? What did you want to do with it?

I thought I was competent when I was younger. In my family, it wasn’t something that they built up. It was something that I did. It wasn’t considered a career option, and I can understand that. My mother’s a very strong and successful businesswoman, so she wanted me to get into business, because that was where you made money. My family wasn’t in the art business, so they didn’t understand how it could be. Somehow or another, I was trying to figure out how I could work illustration into whatever I did. When I was in high school, I designed bottles for this guy who manufactured hair products.

You came to Austin to help a friend open a restaurant in 1987, then went to South America to help your brother in the petroleum business. How in the name of Harvey Penick did you end up in the golf business at Roy Kizer and Jimmy Clay?

I liked playing golf. But I’d never been in the business. A good of mine told me once, “If you’re ever going to learn about the business, go and work in it.” So I came here and worked the counter (one Saturday). (Former Jimmy Clay golf professional) Joe (Ballander) said, ‘This is the only shift I have.” This was 1994, when they opened Kizer. That year was the year I found my niche in the industry.

You mean the scoreboard calligraphy?

For the longest time that’s what I did. Every year (at the state high-school golf tournament), I’d spend, goodness, pretty close to 60 hours just inking all those boards for all those divisions. But it was something that I wanted to do. For a lot of these high-school kids, this’ll be their last tournament. So let’s figure out a way to make it special. That’s what we did.

You clearly take a lot of pride in this work you do. What do you get out of it?

I enjoy doing it because on a Wednesday or a Thursday, I’ll come out of the shop sometimes and I’ll see people standing there, looking at it. Maybe it’s an art form for me. It’s nice to see people look at it. It’s as if I painted something - and people are critiquing it. I love to do it. It all started with doing it with Joe.

What was the appeal of the golf business to you?

Probably the people. When you’re a painter, it’s a solitary pursuit. In a sense, if that’s all you do, and you’re not surrounded by people, you sort of lose touch. I think that’s why people come and play golf, besides the act of hitting a golf ball. You develop friendships. You develop relationships. You develop a lot of things you don’t get in an artistic pursuit. You can find all of that being an artist. But at the same time, you lose a lot of that as well. Because the more you paint, the more you isolate yourself. It gets to a point where the isolation becomes a detriment. So I found that in golf. I was surrounded by great people. I began to study the game, understand the game. The next think I knew, I found an area - with the illustration, with the calligraphy.

Your illness. Where does it start?

Oh-three. I was in Galveston visiting a friend who was studying at the medical school there. He had a very nice little library in his guest room. I had developed some little knots on my neck. I felt these nodes. (He touches the back of his head, moves his fingers along the back of his neck.) I know I wasn’t feeling great, but I attributed it to working a lot, having children. In 2003 my son was born. My daughter was born in ’98. So I had two relatively small kids. I kept feeling this node in my neck. I was looking at this book, it said “Neck Masses.” So I looked. I found something: swollen lymph nodes. I didn’t sound really good. So I asked (his friend), “Hey, can you feel this for me.” He felt it. I remember him looking at me and saying, “You need to see your doctor.”
So I did. They did a biopsy on it. They called me in the next day. I remember the doctor. He looked at me, and I remember his words. “I’m sorry.”
He said I had B-cell lymphoma. He said, “We’ve called an oncologist for you. He’s ready to see you.” I said, “When should I go?” He said, “You need to go see him today.”

What did that feel like?

I think what happens is that your brain tries to process it all. That’s the hardest part, to get a grasp on what’s coming your way. Am I going to live? How long am I going to live?

What was the answer you got?

I went to see the oncologist. He said, “With your type of cancer, seven to 10 years.” So in 2003, I thought I had seven years left.

What happened next?

I went through radiation. Lost all my hair. My throat swelled up. It was just a nasty experience. They put me on Rituxan (a drug used to treat lymphoma), on a heavy dosage, for about a year. I wasn’t recovering. I went through a period when they thought it was going into remission. But it fired right back up.
Then, in 2009, I had another episode.

When you say episode, what do you mean?

My lymph nodes were swollen. I was starting to get fatigued - really fatigued. They noticed that the nodes were starting to move. They moved up and down. There was a small piece on my spleen. They were thinking that it quite possibly had gotten into my lymphatic system and it was starting to go into organs, which is kind of situation they really don’t want you to be in.

You ended up at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston last fall. Why?

My doctor (in Austin) said, “We can’t do anything for you here. It’s time for you to go to MD Anderson. It’s been that long. We’re at that point.”
My oncologist told me at MD Anderson, he said, “The lymphoma has moved from your nodes into your skull, and now it is licking your brain. It’s boring through. And unfortunately, we can’t stop it.” He said, “The only chance you have is a stem-cell transplant.”
I had no idea what a stem-cell transplant was. It was totally foreign to me.

Because you had active lymphoma, using your own stem cells was out of the question. So what did the doctors do?

They started checking my brothers. Both of them were half matches. They couldn’t’ find anybody in the national registry. They tried a little bit outside the United States. They couldn’t find anybody. I would think it has to do with my ethic background, a lot of it (his mother is Korean, his father is black). There were not a lot of black stem-cell donors, so the pool was not very high.

You settled on doing a transplant with a half match. Then something kind of miraculous happened, right?

They (his doctors) said, “You have a giant-cell tumor in your leg. We need to remove it.” (The surgery was successful.) I recovered from that for a couple of weeks, and then I went back for a check up, prior to the stem-cell (transplant).
My doctor walked in. He said, “I have astounding news for you. Your lymphoma has gone into remission. We’ve got a very, very small window. Go home and tell your family you’re going to be gone for about four to five months, and get back down here the first of January. We’re going to put you into isolation. We’re going to take your stem cells. And then we’re going to nuke you really hard.”
So I took off.
They pulled the stem cells. They put me in isolation. Then they started giving me heavy-duty chemo.
You developed fevers when you were at your most vulnerable.
I did. And they were worried about that.

Because you didn’t have a defense?

I had none at all. No white cells. Totally out. My immune system was gone.
You were active on Facebook during your recovery in Houston. Your status updates, your videos, sounded almost defiant. It seemed you had something to settle with your illness, and you were not going to lose.
Right. That’s how I always felt. I was going to fight it till the end. I look back on it, I didn’t think I was going to make it.

Can you describe the moment your physician came in and said, “It worked.”

He walked in - it was about three weeks ago, I was down there - and he gave me a big hug. He says that I am the personification of health.
That had to be good to hear.
Absolutely, man. And it was just me and him, for the first time in a long time. Typically there’s an assistant with him or a family member that I had with me. It was just me and him, for the first time in our history together. It was incredible, man. That was his gift to me. He was like, “Go back to Austin. Be with your family.” I didn’t expect that. Five months ago, I thought it would be, “Go tell your family goodbye.”

You have a testimony now.

Yeah. I’m here.