PEOPLE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD:
For many, the U.S. Open is a study in the highest levels of patience, strategy and adaptability. Onlookers wait with anticipation as the players take their expertly planned shots toward the climactic moment.
But for La Jolla resident Norma Schwab, widow of pro-golfer Pat Schwab, the U.S. Open is a reminder of a special time in her life and the whirlwind 16-day romance that led to a lifetime of love — for the game and a golfer. This year’s U.S. Open started June 14.
“My friends know that, if they want to see me during the U.S. Open, they have to come to me,” she said, as the game could be heard on the television in another room. “Golf is still a big part of my life.”
It all started with a blind date with a would-be pro golfer ...
“A girlfriend of mine, while I was living in Toledo Ohio, said her boyfriend had a friend in town who was a golfer and she invited me to come along with them for a double date. So we went to a restaurant this good-looking gentleman stood up and he had a wonderful smile. They introduced us and we all sat down. But throughout the dinner, the guys were talking golf — and kept talking golf. I was there less than an hour and because I didn’t know anything about golf, I decided to go home.
“That got Pat’s attention and he said, ‘Please don’t go, I’m sorry.’ But I was being stubborn and I said, ‘No, I think I’m going to go, but it has been nice meeting you.’ He offered to walk me to my car and I thought he was a gentleman. When we got to the car, he said he had to go home to Dayton and … he asked if he could take me to breakfast before he left.
“We went to breakfast, and we just clicked. We talked about so many things we had in common, except for golf. He invited me to come to a tournament and see what happens.”
What tournament was that?
The U.S. Open. But before he flew out — because he had to go earlier — he said, ‘I can’t bear to be without you’ and I told him I was feeling the same way. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a little box and there was a ring in it. I’m going to say this was 10 days after we met. It was a total of 16 days after we met that we were standing before a Presbyterian minister in Tulsa. The newspapers picked it up, as did Golf Digest and Golf magazine.
So you liked golf after that?
Yes. At one point, Pat was touring and working at country clubs across the country. He offered to teach me to play golf and I absolutely wanted to learn. He took me on some lessons, but I did things so backwards, he said ‘I love you, but I cannot teach you golf.’ He wanted me to get some time in at a driving range and learn with a friend, so I did. I really enjoyed it. I still have a set of clubs in my office.
Where did things go from there?
He slowed down after a while because it got to be too much on his body and he was getting older. So he played on the Senior Tour, mostly in Florida.
While in Florida (in August 2000), I got a phone call from a friend Pat was playing golf with. Our friend, Bob, said Pat had passed away. I told him not to joke like that. He said they were all on the fourth hole and Pat had hit first (meaning he was doing the best of the four) and went to sit down in the cart while the rest hit their balls. Bob said he walked over to Pat and nudged him to get moving, but Pat was just gone.
He had a type of aneurysm, where it just hits and you’re gone.
How did you cope?
We still talk to one another ... some people think that’s strange, but certain days, like on our anniversary, I’ll have Champagne and we’ll have friends over and all talk to him. (She looks up toward the ceiling and says) That’s right! We’re talking about you!
And I kept busy.
I got my broker’s license to sell homes here in California and worked for builders. I was the hostess with the most-ess, I would greet you and hand you a brochure and welcome you and take you through the models. Right now, I’m not doing any real work. But I take a law class every year so I know what is going on in the industry.
I’m still involved with organizations like St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and at one-time (she sighs and clenches her fists) the San Diego Chargers Backers board.
I support St. Jude because (founder) Danny Thomas is from Toledo, and Danny’s mother and my mother played bridge together. So I feel like I’m part of that family. In the spring, I will fly to Memphis and visit St. Jude. They show you everything they’re doing there, you get to talk to the families. I love fundraisers.
You have a lot that you love!
I’m very fortunate. I tell people, if you meet somebody and fall in love, don’t be afraid of it. It was the most wonderful thing in the world for me. I miss Pat every day. There are bad times in every family, but I feel so fortunate that I had such a wonderful husband.
Editor’s Note: Our “People in Your Neighborhood” series shines a spotlight on locals we all wish we knew more about! Light staff is out on the town talking to familiar faces to bring you their stories. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, e-mail email@example.com or call us at (858) 875-5950.