Fighting on


POSTED: Wednesday, April 29, 2009

There is an unjust slope in the heart of Oahu Country Club.

The 12th fairway often has little to do with fair and everything to do with wisdom, execution and nerves of steel. The 12th, you see, is where the greedy stumble and the meek survive. Lynne Chow lived just long enough to see her baby girl Marissa - the “;surprise”; child, as husband Nelson Chow says - tackle that mean incline methodically.

Marissa Chow not only learned to survive the 12th and its brutal “;false front.”;

“;She said, 'It's not not how you drive, it's how you arrive,' “; Marissa recalls.

All of 14 years old, she mastered it on her way to the Interscholastic League of Honolulu girls golf championship, absorbing every nuanced tip, all of the experience and cajoling that Lynne could bring. Lynne wasn't quite the success on the links as her sister, former LPGA pro Lenore Muraoka, but teaching her pupil Marissa the keys to a killer short game was golden.

Marissa came along when Lynne was 36 - seven years after she and Nelson had their first child, Matthew.

Lynne's passion for the game was undeniable, but even she had no idea that her determined daughter would win five ILH regular-season tournaments in 11 tries, including the individual championship - as a freshman.

“;She's not the longest. She's straight and has very good fundamentals,”; 'Iolani coach Dr. Glenn Inouye said. “;Her mind-set and all-around game, it's almost like a college golfer.”;

Oddly enough, Marissa didn't golf much in her early years. Not for a long time, actually.

NELSON AND LYNNE met at Foodland some years back. Lynne was a cashier after high school and Nelson was a frequent customer.

“;I think it's cute,”; Marissa says.

Two years after Marissa was born, Lynne was diagnosed with breast cancer. A natural fighter, she overcame the disease and bought herself some time.

Marissa immersed herself in gymnastics, basketball and volleyball before she picked up golf clubs and tagged along with mom at OCC. It became habitual, the one place where they spent more time together than any other. Every weekend, it was Lynne and Marissa trolling the greens of lush Nuuanu Valley.

Lynne's singsong rhymes weren't just tunes; they were practical.

When it's breezy, swing easy.

They always stuck with Marissa. Still do.

THE CANCER CAME back after about a decade in remission.

“;She wanted to have more time with us. She always tried to fight the cancer,”; Nelson said.

Strong as she was, Lynne's time came swiftly. Three days after undergoing chemotherapy treatment in January, she stood up and collapsed, her family there in her room.

Marissa wears that date, the 16th, on her golf jersey. Lynne fought off the disease long enough to have some of those moments only a mother and daughter can have.

“;She was pretty sad, she wasn't going to see her kids grow up,”; Nelson said. “;But Marissa went to two winter balls, all dressed up. My wife was really happy to see her get dressed up. She went with her to pick those dresses.”;

There is strength in the memory of her mother, the kind that Marissa needs. At every tourney, it's right around the 12th hole when plantar faciitis fires up under both of Marissa's feet. That triggers a chronically sore Achilles' tendon. She trods on, every time, not a word of complaint.

ROUND ONE of the ILH individual championships was played at OCC, where Marissa shot a 71 to secure a good position among the leaders. At Kapolei Golf Club a few days later, winds presented some difficulties. Marissa could hear the rhymes of her mother all afternoon, but none more so than when she approached the final hole with a sizable lead.

When it's breezy, swing easy.

She finished with a two-round 143, 1-under par to win by a three-stroke margin. There were hugs all around for Marissa from teammates and competitors after she locked away the title. She finally sat down a good 20 minutes later near the officials' table, smiling among friends while tears fell to her cheeks.

“;This is just for her,”; she said. There's a silence when Lynne is no longer around.

Nelson doesn't watch golf. It was Lynne who organized the trips and celebrations.

“;If she was here, she'd be so happy and ecstatic,”; Nelson said. “;She'd throw a huge party.”;

It was only fitting that Lynne Chow came to love the unjust turns ahead, whether they were uphill fairways or an unforgiving disease. In the end, though, she won. Her spirit lives on, in the rhyme and the song.

“;Marissa wanted to make her mom proud. I hope Lynne's watching,”; he said. “;She probably is.”;