20: The Miracle Ball

20: The Miracle Ball

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tales of Golf and Sport

The Miracle Ball

There is no shortage of testimony to the power and magic of the Titleist golf ball, which is far and away the number-one choice on the PGA Tour. As guys like Phil Mickelson, Davis Love and Ernie Els relate in a current television commercial, the Titleist was present for all their special tournament moments.

None of their Titleist success stories, however, is as heartwarming as that of young Samuel Rachal. Sam would qualify as Titleist’s youngest spokesman, except for the fact that at less than six months old he’s still pretty much into baby babble.

So we’ll tell the story for him.

Born five weeks premature on March 15, 2001, to a couple of Port Arthur, Texas, natives—Tom and Denise Rachal, who now live in Dallas, Texas—Sam started life with what in golf terminology would be an unplayable lie. His heart arteries were crossed, meaning he would need something called an arterial switch to survive.

The surgery proved successful, but Sam’s handicap was a heart so weak that he had to be put on a heart-lung machine. Then a kidney problem developed. Much agonizing followed for Tom, the son of Pat and Mary Helen Rachal, and Denise, the daughter of Sam and Billie Jo Henry.

Baby Sam, though, was not about to WD from this high-stakes game to which he’d just been introduced. Helped along by faith, prayer, hope and a Titleist 1 that remained in his bed throughout the entire ordeal, he overcame the life-threatening obstacles in his path and is expected to live a normal life.

Now about that Titleist 1.

Tom, an avid golfer, had spotted the ball in his car on the way to the hospital for Sam’s delivery and thought he would stick it in his pocket for a good luck charm. Later, on a whim, he put the ball in Sam’s bed at the hospital.

For the next eight weeks, while Sam was transferred from Presbyterian Hospital to the Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, the Titleist 1 was his constant companion. Day after day, week after week, as he battled through a series of hazards tougher than Pete Dye could conceive, the Titleist 1 was always there.

“It’s hard to explain but that golf ball kind of became a focal point for everybody,” says Tom. “The doctors and nurses would always look for that ball when they came into his room. The ball was just sort of a symbol of hope.”

Now that Sam is home, healthy and happy, the Titleist 1 sits on Tom’s desk as a constant reminder to him and Denise of what they went through. One of these days, if Sam desires to give golf a try, Tom has already decided it will be the first ball he hits.

But it certainly won’t be the last Titleist at his disposal.

Thanks to George Sine Jr., Titleist’s vice president of golf ball marketing and strategic planning, Sam is well stocked. After receiving a letter from Tom relating how the Titleist 1 proved to be a positive symbol during his son’s crisis, Sine responded with a heartfelt letter, 144 Titleist 1 balls personalized with Sam’s name and birthdate, and a pair of baby FootJoys.

“It was really a nice touch on his part,” Tom says of Sine’s letter. “We were so surprised when that care package arrived.”

Sine, a father of four young children, was obviously touched by the story about Sam. He wrote, in part, “While I am confident that it was your faith, prayer and hope that resulted in Sam’s wellness, not to mention a dedicated medical team, the fact that a single Titleist 1 was along for the journey is indeed a proud moment for the brand.

“The round which you have described is unparalleled by any major championship, coveted trophy or record score, as it was not a game of honor but rather a game of life at stake... So that you may permanently enshrine the now famous Titleist 1 which accompanied Sam on his journey, I am enclosing a supply of new No. 1s.

“The enclosed are personally imprinted for that first occasion when you and Sam approach your first tee box, place the tee in the ground and cherish what is certain to be your first of many father-and-son moments sharing not merely a game but rather a milestone together that will not be forgotten.”

Sounds like Titleist needs to get baby Sam and his dad under contract for what could be a powerful TV spot.

~Bob West
Chicken Soup for the Golfer’s Soul, The 2nd Round

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