By Robert Bicknell

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April 15, 2007

When a stroke is more than a penalty…

For too many years to count, I have been constantly advising people, that when playing golf in Vietnam, especially in the south, to drink lots of water, wear light colour clothing and keep their heads covered to avoid heat related problems such as heat exhaustion or sun stroke. So, you’d think I be smart enough to know better...

But nooooooooooooooooo.

After a wonderfully semi-mild winter here in Hanoi, I ventured south to participate in the Norfolk Invitational tournament last week at Vietnam Golf & Country Club. When I worked there, I used to joke that "this place will be the death of me someday."

Little did I know that, due to various factors, including 38 C degree heat, "someday" was almost last Saturday.

I was so excited to be around old friends at a course that I have played hundreds rounds on that I didn’t pay attention to the early warning signs of heat stroke and kept on playing.

Being stubborn, I drank two bottles of water, poured a third bottle over my head every two holes to cool things down and kept going. After we finished 12 holes, the ground started going in and out of focus and I was on the verge of serious trouble.

No matter how much I love golf, I love my daughter more and the idea of dropping dead on the golf course is not high on my list of things to do. Besides, Blair would never forgive me.

So, I called for a ride to the clubhouse and hit the showers.

For me, the event ended well and there was a great party afterwards at Norfolk Mansion. Pity I couldn’t find an inflatable rubber duck for Mr. Long, but he got a trophy instead.

Back in Hanoi, there are a few things I am going to do, the first of which is scheduling a full physical check-up with my doctor. The second is to try and quit smoking again, and the third is to join a gym and start working out.

Undoing the damage I caused myself by being chained to a desk for the last 10 months instead of walking on a golf course is vital. This "fat ass syndrome" gotta go.

While I am on this subject, I have also been noticing that many Vietnamese children are beginning to look like little beach balls. This is definitely not a good thing.

Sadly, far too many kids sit at the computer playing video games until their eyes bleed and what is amazing is that they can be a superstar computer football game player, yet cannot run 100 metres without falling down in a sweaty panting heap.

When I was young, the old saying was "A healthy body makes for a healthy mind", and Physical Education (gym) classes were mandatory in school. The coaches didn’t care if you just had a leg amputated, they’d still tell you to "take a lap."

A recent study published in Newsweek magazine supports this idea, but what aggravates me is that they’re coming on like they invented this new "revolutionary concept" of exercise helping to improve your brain as well as your body.

Any parent from the previous generation could’ve told us that as they were big supporters of physical activity. If you played outside with your friends, that meant it was peaceful and quiet in the house. Also, you would wear down your batteries and go to sleep without a fight.

My father pushed me to participate in athletic activities every day and it didn’t matter which sport or where. In fact, on more than once occasion he urged me to "go play in traffic."

Healthy diets are also a big problem. With the increased choices of restaurants, especially "fast food" places, more people are eating on the run instead of eating healthy, balanced meals. Look, "fast food" is called that because it goes to your hips and heart…fast.

So, in the spirit of "physician heal thyself", I plan to take my own advice for a change and urge you to do the same. If you’re not staying active and watching your diet, you’re asking for trouble eventually.

Just pray the doctor doesn’t have a fool for a patient.

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