Two knees give Beaufort man new life

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Army Veteran Richard Bell of Beaufort recently served as an Honorary Observer, on behalf of Stryker Orthopaedics, at the RBC Heritage. A former golf professional, he was announced on the first tee and paired with professional golfers Jason Dufner and Nick Taylor. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

By Aileen Goldstein

You’d never know it by looking at him, but Richard Bell could barely walk at one point.

In fact, his knees were shot and he needed two total knee replacements. But walk he did … with pro golfer Jason Dufner.

Bell, of Beaufort, experienced the PGA’s RBC Heritage on Hilton Head Island in a whole new way.

Bell, who is the recent recipient of two total knee replacements, was named Honorary Observer for the RBC. Stryker Orthopedics, the official joint replacement product of the PGA, named Bell one of two Honorary Observers for this year’s event. Bell was privileged to walk along with Dufner during the tournament. 

Bell is no stranger to the golf course. On any given day, he can be found on a golf course, hitting balls. But he was experiencing a lot of pain in his knees and consulted Dr. Edward Blocker at Beaufort Memorial Hospital. 

Blocker determined Bell’s knees were deteriorating and recommended knee replacements for both legs.  

Bell underwent surgery in July 2016 for his first knee replacement and returned in October of the same year to replace the other knee.   

“I’m back on the green almost every day and I’m playing nine to 18 holes every day without pain for a change,” says Bell.  

He credits his relatively easy recovery to the physical therapy he received after surgery.  In addition, Bell also joined Beaufort Memorial Lifefit Wellness Center and goes regularly to gain strength and stay fit.  

The hardest part of recovery, according to Bell, was his age. 

At 72 years old, he says he just does not heal as fast as he did in his younger years.

Every year Stryker Orthopedics accepts nominations from local doctors for the Honorary Observer opportunities at the RBC Heritage. Blocker knew Bell’s love of the game and nominated his patient for the opportunity.  

“The highlight was seeing (Dufner) chip in for birdies twice and seeing him come into the lead,” says Bell.  

Bell is also no stranger to golf tournaments; he once played as an amateur at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Tournament alongside Billy Mayfair.  

Bell is also an Army veteran and served during the Vietnam War. He was medically discharged after being exposed to Agent Orange used during the war. He later worked as a civilian for the Army for the troop support agency and spent several years in Germany during that role.

When his daughter was in high school, Bell sought a position in Beaufort so his daughter could graduate from a high school in Beaufort County.  

In 1988, Bell and his family moved to Beaufort and he accepted a Department of Defense position with the Marines.

He is a member and regularly plays on the course at Parris Island, which he says is one of the top 10 best military golf courses in the United States.

Bell plans to spend the rest of his years in Beaufort, playing golf every day. And as long as airplane tickets remain affordable, Bell says he will fly back home to Indiana to visit.   

The best part of living in Beaufort, according to Bell, is that it is the best kept secret in the country and the golf, of course.