Widow Pays Tribute to Late Husband with Dream Island Green
By Dave Allen
For years, Crystal and her husband had been talking about having their own floating island green in their backyard at their rural Virginia home. Crystal’s husband was a golfing FANATIC. It was his biggest passion and he was very good at it, so good that he won several club championships and even had four holes-in-one.
“He loved, loved, loved to play,” said Crystal. “I don’t even know how to tell you how someone could love golf as much as he did.”
In 2017, Crystal was just beginning to catch the golfing bug from her husband. He had just bought her three clubs—a 6-iron, 8-iron and pitching wedge—and signed her up for a series of lessons before things went dark, very dark, for the couple. Crystal had a genetic form of heart disease called cardiomyopathy, and it had begun to progress rapidly after she and her husband got married. And now her heart was failing. For several months, she and her husband visited one heart specialist after another, and in September of 2017 she was hospitalized. Fortunately, two months later, she received a new lease on life when she underwent successful heart transplant surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN.
Crystal spent the next several months rehabbing at their new home in Jupiter, Fla., and was soon fit to travel to Europe and Jackson Hole, WY, among other places.
“It wasn’t a walk in the park by any means, but I took it very, very well,” said Crystal. “Life was great.”
And then it went dark again. After a recent trip to Jackson Hole, Crystal’s husband started experiencing some severe stomach pains. The pain got so bad that he drove himself to the emergency room. Five days later, in September of 2018, the couple was at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York when they received the worst possible news: Crystal’s husband had Stage 4 Colon Cancer. Sixteen months later he was gone.
“Even with his chemo, he would have that chemo pack around his waist and he’d still be golfing, walking the course,” said Crystal. “God forbid he’d get on a cart. Till the very end he wouldn’t get on a cart.”
Dreams. Crystal and her late husband had so many of them.
“But when you die at 51 years old, you’re just starting to chase them,” Crystal said.
In the fall of 2020, Crystal decided to make good on one of those dreams that she and her late husband shared. She was taking lessons again at a local Virginia club and came home one day and thought to herself, “I’m just going to do it.”
Months earlier, Crystal had discovered a piece of paper at their Florida home with the words, “Aqua Greens,” written on it. Curious, she “googled” Aqua Greens and found that it was a New Hampshire-based company that specialized in the building and installation of floating island greens and aqua ranges. This, she thought, must be it—the fruits of her late husband’s research into their dream golf island hole. From there, her property manager took over, and just last month, a little more than a year-and-a-half after her husband’s passing, the 20- x 30-foot green was installed in their backyard pond.
“I can stand in the kitchen and look at the pond in the back and I can see the green, and it just makes me smile,” said Crystal. “It makes me think of him and golf and the things we loved and shared. It’s really pretty to see it out there in the setting that it’s in. It’s really peaceful and I’m proud of it, as I am of him.”
The structure has a 35-foot-long footbridge that attaches to the shoreline and uses a flexible ramp that can pivot and adjust with the changing water levels. The walkway, which uses a hinge system commonly seen in tidal, seafront settings, was Crystal’s idea, as she didn’t want people falling and hurting themselves when trying to get from a boat to the green surface.
“You still need a boat to pick up the floating balls,” said Crystal, “but you don’t have to get up out of the boat. And you can putt on the green. It’s really fun!”
Crystal has used the new golf attraction to “bribe” her two 20-something daughters and their friends to come over and hit balls, and they’re more than happy to oblige. They removed a table from their covered pool deck and turned it into a makeshift teeing area, about 120 yards from the green. Crystal is also hoping to build another tee on the other side of the pond as well as one closer to the shoreline to give everyone a variety of different distances and angles to tee from.
For now, she’ll continue to hone her short-iron game from her pool deck, honoring her late husband and smiling every time she lands a tee shot on their dream backyard hole.
“So many times you have a small window and you just want to go hit a few balls,” said Crystal, who’s still relatively new to the game but is coming up on a full year of taking lessons. “I see now why he loved golf so much because it’s just an escape. If you want to be really good at golf, you can’t really think about anything else when you’re doing it. He was under so much stress with work and life and I think golf enabled him to let go of that and focus on something that quieted his mind, but challenged him and brought him peace. And now it’s doing the same for me because I can quiet all of this pain and just play golf.”