Bouts of depression set in, along with painful stints of gout, adding more discomfort.
“I gave myself so many pep talks along the way,” Dennis recalls. “Try to stay grateful …it could be worse.”
One of the key members of his support team was Robert Herschbach, a longtime friend who had met Dennis in the fall of 1982, playing pick-up basketball games.
It was Robert’s suggestion that helped change the course of Dennis’ life, encouraging the Leonis to move to Camarillo in Ventura County, California. It was June of 2017. Robert and his wife, Connie, lived there and played golf at Spanish Hills Golf Club. Robert boldly predicted that he’d have Dennis “up and playing golf within a year after moving,” and dedicated himself as the guy who would make it happen.
The Leonis moved in with the Herschbachs while they began their new home search.
Meanwhile, the pro at Spanish Hills Golf Club, Leo Lee, had made it possible for Robert to take Dennis out on a golf cart and cruise around the course.
Robert continues to pay tribute to Leo, who was instrumental in enabling Dennis’ use of the course.
“His commitment was amazing,” Robert remembers. “He provided the tools I needed to create a planned recovery for Dennis. He believed the game of golf could be utilized to bring back motor skills and curtail depression. Leo was resolute about the process for over three years, always asking about his progress.”
Eventually he challenged Dennis to hit a few balls on the driving range.
“I could stagger around a little,” Dennis recalls. “And then I started holding the flag for the foursome.”
Putting was next.
“What helped was the ability I had to stand very still when looking over the ball,” Dennis remembers. Next came: “Hey, let’s play a couple of holes.”
Two holes lead to six holes which lead to nine holes. Along the way, Dennis had to battle the vertigo which to this day causes a lot of dizziness and fatigue.
“I could see the competitiveness rise up within him…the sparkle had returned to his eyes,” reflects Robert. “It was great to see.”
While it took almost three years, Dennis did the unthinkable — he played 18 holes. Now, he’s plays 18 holes every time out, and shoots in the low 90s.
The idea for Recovery Shot was beginning to take shape. Dennis recovered thanks to his friend, Robert, who generously and selflessly took it upon himself to get Dennis back to playing golf. But an idea began to evolve. What if others could improve their physical and emotional health, as well as speed up their recovery while enjoying the game of golf?
In researching the idea, Debbie discovered that no adaptive golf programs existed in Los Angeles County, a county that has more than 10 million residents. Debbie realized there was a great opportunity to serve this community — an opportunity existed for Ventura County as well.
It was later that year that Debbie, Dennis and their inner circle of friends created