Helping heal after enduring tragic loss | The Spirit of Golf

Wesley Bauguess
Courtesy Wesley Bauguess
Golf helped bring Wesley and Larry Bauguess together. Now it's helping the Bauguess family recover from Larry's tragic passing.
By John Kim
PGA.com

Series: Spirit of Golf

"You're still away."
 
These are words you never want to hear on the golf course. It takes on a whole new meaning for the Bauguess family.
 
"Like all of us, he hated to hear those words," Wesley Bauguess recalls about her husband Larry. "He was a baseball player and could make a good athletic full swing. His long game was fine. But he was also an infantryman, and strength and muscle always won out over finesse. So every once in awhile, he'd skull a chip over the green or blast a putt way by the hole. Sometimes I'd get the words out, sometimes he'd respond with an 'I know, I know!' before I could say anything."
 
When Wesley, a one-time collegiate golfer on scholarship, would go out and play golf with Larry, the playful laughs and teasing were always part of the round. But their enjoyment of each other's company and the time spent playing golf was very genuine.  
 
In fact, without golf, there may never have been a Bauguess family. 
 
Wesley Hobbs was an accomplished junior golfer growing up in South Florida and accepted a golf scholarship to Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.  While there, she fell in love with both the ROTC program and a fellow student in the program -- Larry. 
 
Both graudated to promising careers in the military, serving together as lieutenants and then captains. When they started a family, Wesley left the active-duty military while Larry stayed in, ultimately becoming an Airborne Ranger.
 
He was known as a great soldier who loved his job, his country, his faith and of course, his growing family. 
 
It was a good time for the Bauguess family. 
 
Then May 14, 2007.
 
Maj. Larry Bauguess  - serving with the 82nd Airborne Division as part of the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom - attended a border meeting in Pakistan in an effort to calm tensions in the region. The peace meeting included leadership from the U.S., Afghanistan and Pakistan.
 
"By all accounts, I'm told the meeting appeared to be a great success with coins exchanged, photos taken and a lot of good will in the room."  Wesley Bauguess relays.  "He was the Operations Officer of his unit, he could have left with senior leadership - but that wasn't Larry. He wanted to stay with his men."
 
Wesley says the Army told her that a uniformed Pakistani Frontier Guardsman opened fire on the Americans as they prepared to leave the scene. She said Larry immediately recognized what was happening and stood in between the assailant and his men, shielding them with his own body. Wesley puts in succinctly. "He died saving the men of his unit."

 

Larry's death was obviously devastating - but Wesley knew that she still had a mission of her own. With two young daughters (ages 4 and 6 at the time), she had to summon the strength and courage to raise their girls in a way that would offer them the best chance to cope and succeed in life. 
 
One outlet for her was starting a Wounded Warriors program in her area for those dealing with similarly painful losses. Her work with that group ultimately led to a meeting with Dan Rooney from The Folds of Honor Foundation.
 
The Folds of Honor Foundation provides educational scholarships to the families of those that have been killed or wounded in overseas battles. Their primary platform to do so is through golf (Founder Major Dan Rooney is also a PGA Professional). And though they have plenty of big name supporters (Rickie Fowler, Zach Johnson and David Feherty are a few of the golf names associated with the group), the organization thrives because of the grassroots support it receives from golfers around the country who make donations during Labor Day weekend - donations matched by participating courses. As of January 2013, FoH had awarded over 3800 scholarships.
 
Major Rooney was able to present the Bauguess children scholarships from the Folds of Honor Foundation. Wesley's mission to raise their girls with the best chance at success had just been boosted through the game that first brought her and her husband together. 
 
Since Larry's death, Wesley Bauguess has a whole new appreciation for golf. 
 
"What I miss so much," she says, "is the golf we would have played as a family. I still have dreams of the four of us going out on a golf course together. I still say "You're still away" to him. It's obviously a different context, but it still reminds me of some of the great times we had together during our rounds."
 
And golf continues to resonate for the Bauguess family. Wesley has joined the Speakers Bureau for the Folds of Honor Foundation and has helped raise awareness for the group's mission as well as the encouragement for people to play, enjoy and appreciate the time they have together on the course. 
 
Larry Bauguess used to tell those around him, "In life, things are going to happen. Sometimes they're good; sometimes they're bad. It not about what happens to you in life, it's about how you handle it."  
 
The Bauguess family, with some help from the golf world, is handling it in a pretty magnificent way.
 
The Spirit of Golf is a celebration of the most important stories in golf - your stories. Though magical moments are associated with major championships or the Ryder Cup - the very best times are found when playing with family, friends, in helping a greater cause or traveling to a bucket list course. We invite all golfers to read, share and contribute their own great memories as we all work together to enjoy the "Spirit of Golf".  If you have a good story for the "Spirit of Golf" - you can contact John Kim at john.kim@pga.com