Golf brought Hartford teen, dad closer together before his death

In her father's eyes, Lauren Grace Ford of Hartford, Ark., has always been a star. Her father introduced Lauren to many sports from T-ball to basketball, which are just two ways Gary Ford found time to spend with his daughter.Gary was always by her side, coaching her each step of the way, but the greens of the fairway and Lauren's love for golf brought this father-daughter duo even closer. As proud mom, Sharon Ford stood back and watched and cheered. Lauren ,with the help of her daddy, learned to dominate the course.Even on 100-plus-degree days, you would find Lauren, Gary, Sharon and Garett — Lauren's brother and Junior PGA Golfer of the Year — battling the heat and each hole on the course.Until this summer, it was a given where you would find Lauren and her dad from the end of basketball season in March to October. But in May, her father was hospitalized with severe stomach pain only to find out that his lower intestine had shut down. It wasn't known then, but there would be no more trips to the golf course for Gary.After five weeks in the hospital and open-heart surgery, Gary's prolonged battle with illness ended on on July 6 as Yah graciously welcomed him into eternal rest.Lauren is the granddaughter of Louise Killion of Poteau and Patty and Vernie Thornburg of Spiro, and is the niece of Dedee and Chad Tolbert of Poteau and Melissa and Cody Shackelford of Fort Smith, Ark.