Michael Barman stared out at the par-3 No. 4 hole at West Lake Country Club on Feb. 28. The pin was 194 yards away. Barman hit the shot and watched as the ball rolled into the cup.
Greenbrier golfer Michael Barman played at Forest Hills Golf Club earlier this month. Michael was in a car accident that killed golf teammates Daniel Hall and Shane Williams.
It was an incredible start to the 2005 Greenbrier golf season, and it was Barman's first match in two years after surviving a car wreck that killed two of his teammates.
When Greenbrier coach Clint Woodfin arrived on the scene of the one-car wreck, nothing could have prepared him for what he would learn.
Two of his players were dead a third was a near death.
"The coroner told me I'd lost two," Woodfin said. "He said, 'You're about to lose another.' It all happened so fast. It was impossible to comprehend everything that happened."
Woodfin, a then-24-year-old golf coach, was waiting at the Rocky Branch Golf Course in Lincolnton, Ga., minutes before an April 15, 2003, match. Some members of his team, however, were uncharacteristically late.
"I was wondering where they were," he said. "I don't think they had ever been late. I knew something was wrong.
"Ben Johnson came running around the clubhouse with a horrific look on his face. He said, 'Shane's been in an accident and it's not good.' He looked like he'd seen a ghost."
Four members of Woodfin's team would never arrive.
Greenbrier golfers Daniel Hall and Shane Williams died when the Ford Explorer that Williams was driving went onto the shoulder, then back across the road and into the ditch and rolled over several times.
Michael Barman was critically injured and close to death. His brother, Matthew, also suffered injuries but was the only passenger of the car that paramedics believed would escape the accident alive.
Barman suffered two broken knees, nerve damage and internal injuries as a result of the wreck. He was in a hospital bed for two months.
"Literally, Michael's a miracle," Woodfin said. "There is probably no reason he should have lived. God was watching over him."
Barman said he doesn't remember the early part of the hospital stay. What he does remember isn't pleasant.
"How do you handle what happened?," he asked. "No one can tell you how to deal with that. And I was in the hospital stuck in the bed. I thought about Daniel and Shane a lot, but I also thought about how lucky I was to have survived."
When it came time to enter rehabilitation, Barman had a tremendous challenge to overcome.
Photo by Chris Thelen
Because of the damage to his legs, Barman had to teach himself to walk again.
"Everyone says rehab is tough," he said. "It is more than tough. They push you harder than you can imagine. They take you to another level."
Missing the final month-and-a-half of the 2003 school year, Barman had spent the summer after the wreck catching up with missed school and doing rehab.
But he couldn't play during the 2004 season.
"He was very much a part of the team," Woodfin said. "He rode around in a golf cart and never missed a match."
Barman said it was hard for him to watch, especially missing out on playing with his brother, Matthew, in his senior season.
The now-senior continued to improve, and on Feb. 28, he made it back.
"I was very anxious to return," Barman said. "I know a lot of people were pulling for me and that was nerve-racking."
On No. 4, Barman made the first ace in school history, according to Woodfin, who is now a football coach at Parkview High in Lawrenceville, Ga.
"I'm sure Daniel and Shane were watching, and they might have helped me there," Barman said. "No, I'm positive they did."
Barman shot a 39 and led Greenbrier to a two-stroke victory over Lakeside, a team that finished third in the state last year.
"For him to go through what he did was remarkable and still succeed," Woodfin said. "And then to hit the greatest shot in golf was just a miracle.
"Movie directors turn that script away because it is unbelievable. That was the ultimate storybook ending to the saga. But he still has so much more to do."
The team has struggled a little recently, but Barman hopes they can finish strong. He said he hopes to attend either Georgia Tech or the University of Georgia, where his brother goes to school.
"I'm ready to go to college and get started with a new chapter in my life," Barman said.
For now, he seems content with strolling the fairways of the area golf courses happy playing the game he loves.
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