Simpson Cup contender reflects on lost friend, healing power of golf

Andrew Bachelder is one of the contenders at this week's Simpson Cup in Pittsford. He said golf has provided him with a way to heal from the physical and psychological wounds of war (WHAM photo)

Pittsford, N.Y. – Of all the great golf tournaments that have been played at Oak Hill Country Club, the one going on this week may be the most inspirational.

At 8 a.m. Tuesday, teams of wounded servicemen and and veterans from the U.S. and Great Britain began play in the Fifth Annual Simpson Cup.

Some of the contenders are amputees, while others have traumatic brain injuries or PTSD.

But they all have golf. It is the game that has helped them recover. Some will tell you it saved their lives.

In the crowd Tuesday, there was a couple who drove several hours to see one particular player on Team USA. They came both to honor him and to honor the memory of their son.

As a marine, Andrew Bachelder survived a midair collision of two choppers. That was in Afghanistan in 2009. Three years earlier, one of his best marine buddies, Eli Parker, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

“Eli was a funny guy,” Bachelder told 13WHAM. “We called him Spiderman. So his nickname was Spider. He loved Spiderman. He was a jackrabbit of a runner. He had bright, shiny head, big white teeth and he was hilarious.”

Today, as Bachelder continues to recover from physical and psychological wounds and competes in the Simpson Cup, the parents of his fallen friend are at Oak Hill to watch.

“These guys, it’s like they were twins almost,” said Renny Parker, Eli Parker’s father. “They’re that close. And I think servicemembers are that way.”

“They have each other’s backs,” said Donna Parker, Eli’s mother. “They’re not only serving their country; but you’re serving each other, watching out for one another.”

“Seeing them lets me know that maybe Eli’s with them,” said Mr. Parker. “And Eli’s watching over. It warms my heart to see them, gives me motivation.”

“I told them I always try to keep in touch with families I knew that had lost a son. It’s how I heal,” said Bachelder. “It helps me with my psychological issues and being able to cope with different issues of losing brothers, and seeing them just cheers me up.”

And it reminds the Parkers – and Andrew – of Eli’s enduring spirit.

“Eli was an exuberant, intelligent, good citizen and a Christian,” said Mr. Parker.

“Just a great kid,” said Mrs. Parker. “He loved the Marines. It’s hard that it turned out this way, but we just like to keep his memory alive and his legacy of servicing alive.”

The Parkers live in Camden, New York, near Rome. They honor their son each year with a charity golf event.

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