At the age of 37, Alan Garcia received some of the worst news someone at such a young age could ever expect.
He was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Not only was Garcia in his late 30s, but he was also a newlywed when he discovered he had a benign, non-cancerous pituitary tumor a mere six months after his wedding.
"I had just been remarried, so instead of being a father of two, now I'm a father of four," Garcia said. "My surgeon said, 'You need to get all your affairs in order, just in case.' That is something you cannot imagine. Here I am in 1991, I'm about 37 or 36 and you just can't imagine being that age and knowing that you've got to get everything prepared.
"But you know what? Every day since then has been a good day. It really has."
Garcia's annual check-ups over the next 10 years went smoothly until 2001.
After what would have been his final screening, Garcia got the word that the tumor had returned.
"Usually you'll only need to get checked for 10 years," Garcia said. "So here I am, 2001, 10 years later, my last MRI and was actually told by my doctor's nurse everything's good. I said, 'Great, I'm out of the woods.' ... I go to see my doctor a few days later and my doctor says, 'You're in pretty good spirits, considering.' I said, 'Considering what?' He said, 'You're tumor's back.'"
Garcia said the second tumor was much easier to handle, thanks to the support of his family.
During his time in the hospital the second time around, Garcia's wife Yvonne was by his side - playing a classic kid's handheld video game console. The couple spent hours taking on Tetris on Nintendo Game Boy.
"We were bawling when the batteries went dead in the Game Boy - they were the only batteries we had," Garcia said with a laugh. "So whenever somebody called us, we would ask them to bring some AA batteries to us so we could keep playing."
Tetris couldn't fill the hole for his passion of golf, however.
Last year, in the Lawrence Amateur Golf Association Big Event Tournament, Garcia achieved one of golf's rarest feats. He made a hole-in-one on No. 4 at Alvamar Golf Course - site of today's opening round of the LAGA Big Event Tournament.
Garcia, however, didn't see it.
"It still haunts me to this day," said the lifelong Lawrence resident, who was reaching down for his tee when the ball found the bottom of the cup. "You see them on TV, you read about them in the paper and you're thinking, 'I missed it! This was a crowning achievement of my life, and I missed it!'"
Riding the euphoria over the next several months of his hole-in-one, both his son and his daughter getting married, turning 50 years old and celebrating 30 years at Hallmark all came to a crashing halt early of this year.
In February, nearly four months after his 50th birthday, Garcia was informed the tumor had once again resurfaced.
But he wasn't going to let tumor No. 3 prevent him from returning to the golf course.
"When I had this last one in February, it was a tough recovery, but I told myself that I was going to make sure that I was ready to play in the city tournament," Garcia said. "I finally got the OK to start playing on May 1, so now I've been playing a lot of catch up. I've pretty much been begging people. You see those people sitting on the corner asking for money? I feel like I'm one of those guys: 'Play golf with me, please.'"
Garcia will be in the final foursome with Michael Faria, Robb Ferguson and Tyler Kahn that tees off at 10:45 a.m.
"I'm not quite as well as where I want to be," the 1975 graduate of Lawrence High said. "It would be nice if I shot a 90 at Alvamar, but even if I shot 104 I'm going to be happy, because it beats staying at home, looking out the window and feeling sorry for yourself."
As for the sorrows of missing his hole-in-one last year?
"I guarantee you, that if it looks like it's going to be close, I am going to be watching," Garcia said. "I am definitely going to be watching."