Villazante: 39 radiation treatments ... then a 67 at Shenny
Many of us faced with Frank Villazante's decision would have opted for a nap. Or a day with the remote. Heck, even God, who certainly could have played nine to celebrate the end a certain week in the book of Genesis, chose to rest on the seventh day.
But on the day after his 39th radiation treatment for prostate cancer ... Frank Villazante played golf.
He walked all 18.
And shot 67 at Shennecossett.
"My last day of radiation was March 9," Villazante, retired from the Coast Guard and the Norwich Housing Authority, was saying recently from sunny Florida. "It had a variety of side effects, but I only really suffered from bad fatigue. I ran out gas by 1 in the afternoon usually. All my buddies wanted to get together to play and celebrate the end of radiation and I thought, well, maybe I could play nine. My wife (Patty) thought I was crazy."
This was the prostate cancer with which Villazante, who once coached basketball with Chop Parker in New London and Gary Ballestrini in Montville, was diagnosed in 2013. Robotic surgery worked at Hartford Hospital — "a miracle it hadn't spread," Villazante said — making the next few years an opportunity for an exhale.
"Periodically, I'd get bloodwork every two to three months," Villazante said. "After five years, it was every six months. Things were going pretty well till the middle of last year when my PSA started rising. By Thanksgiving, it was back. I went to Smilow (Cancer Hospital Care Center) in Waterford for 39 radiation treatments."
But then came March 10 ... and boy did Villazante's game do the radiating.
"I'm a walker. I want to feel the golf course under my feet," Villazante said. "But I wasn't sure I could finish five holes."
Amazing what happens, though, when you can't miss.
"I had a par on one and then birdied two and three," Villazante said. "I birdied five and eight. My friends said, 'are you gonna be able to continue? I said, 'are you kidding?' Then I birdied 10. (Foursome member) Chucky Appleby was going out of his mind."
Villazante admitted to getting dizzy a few times. Sure, they do the dizzy bat race at minor league baseball games. But this was new. The dizzy golf swing? He birdied the last three holes.
"The guys were saying the radiation was giving me super powers," Villazante said. "I honestly didn't know if I could finish. The last few holes, when I'd plug the ball in the ground, it was to keep myself upright."
Then Villazante paused and said, "when it was over, I had a libation and took a picture of the card. A miracle day."
Indeed. And one for the good guys.
"Frank is a true sportsman," said Dr. John Sullivan, a close friend and frequent golf partner. "This winter he was on the golf course after his treatments were finished, toting sandwiches or pizza or some other kind a lunch and a beverage or two. The week after he shot 67, he had his sixth hole-in-one on the ninth (at Shenny). He's a kind of guy you like to have coach your child. I'm lucky to have him as a friend."
Villazante was born in New London and attended Jennings School and middle school through the seventh grade until his family moved to Maine. He returned through ties with Coast Guard, remaining here to coach basketball. Villazante was on the bench at New London High and happily remembers many memorable postgames and late nights at Pizzarama.
"I'll know soon whether we got the cancer this time," Villazante said. "I go for bloodwork the first week in June. But I have a good feeling. Like Paul Newman said in The Color of Money, 'Baby I'm back.' I feel good."
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro