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On & Off the Course

May 15, 2010

On and Off the Course: Remembering former South golfer Ian White

TERRE HAUTE — It’s usually a bit of a struggle for me to figure out what my topic will be for this column. This week I could have written about Tiger’s withdrawal from the Players’ Championship due to a bulging disc in his neck, or by association, the health hazards a violent golf swing can have on the human body, or any number of other golf-related topics. But this week’s column has been more or less decided for me by a tragic event: the death of 20-year-old Ian White, a former South High School golfer who played on the team that made it to state in 2008, and graduated that year, sharing the student council award for golf with my son Phillip.

Phillip played high school golf with Ian all four years at South, and for many years before that they played in junior tournaments locally and throughout the state of Indiana. Ian traveled with me and Phillip to a number of courses for practice rounds before a tournament.

We traveled to Brownsburg and played West Chase, Martinsville to play Foxcliff Golf Club, Rolling Meadows in Gosport, and Christmas Lake in Santa Claus. Philip traveled with Ian and his dad for some of the out of town tournaments too. Wherever there was a golf course, they were willing to play it, and Ian was always confident that one of them would win it.

Ian and Phillip were a good pair because they were both golf nuts! One time, when Ian was with us for the drive home after playing in the IHSAA Regional tournament at Christmas Lake Golf Course, we stopped in Jasper to see Sultan’s Run Golf Course, because it’s one of our favorite courses and we wanted Ian to see the 18th hole, which is a beautiful finishing hole with a back drop of rocks, flowers and a waterfall. Then we showed him the 12th hole, which is a daunting par 3 that plays 209 yards from the back tees, straight down hill with a pond surrounding the green. Once he saw that, he really wanted to play it! So even though it was late afternoon, and the sun was setting by the time we got to 18, we played. And I’m so glad we did.

Another time Phillip had driven to Columbus, where Ian’s family had moved to, to play in a tournament. They played a practice round together, then Phillip played the next morning, and went back to the White’s house and picked Ian up to bring him back to Terre Haute with him. Their route back took them through Bloomington, so Ian said,” Wait. We’ve got to play this course!” So they stopped and played Eagle Pointe. Then, when they got back to our house, they took a big bag of “Over the Border” nacho chips to the basement and played the “Tiger Woods” video game on XBox for hours and hours.

Golf and life were pretty analogous for Ian. He had many ups and downs, often within a span of a few holes. One of Phillip’s favorite Ian stories was about the time the South golf team played a match at Coyote Crossing in Lafayette. Philip had played an odd round with three birdies in it but also a triple bogey and some other bogeys, but his story was nothing compared to Ian’s! Ian told the story of his back nine like this, “So I start out on number 10. . . QUAD!!! (hands splayed open and eyes rolled upward), . . . birdie-birdie-birdie. . . . QUAD!!!! (ditto on the gestures) … birdie-birdie-bogey, and I ended with a par.” Ian shot an 81 that day, with two quadruple bogeys and 5 birdies. When I heard that story, I always thought of Ian’s dad, and how he must have suffered and cheered through that set of holes, because I know how tough that is to watch.

During practice rounds you knew exactly where Ian was because he’d let out a big “BEEAAAU”, usually indicating that he had hit a huge hook, but sometimes it was a slice! It was a big shot, whatever it was, and he was having some fun! He could later describe every shot he had hit, and always knew he could have gone lower. He also tried more putters than anyone on the team. He was streaky with his putting, and would sink everything for a few rounds, then he’d start missing putts and decide to change putters again, or even his putting grip! He was such a competitor, such a gifted athlete, and such a fun friend. I spent many hours with Ian, when he was playing golf with me and Phillip, and I’m very glad of that. And I know his parents are very grateful for every round they got to watch.

I don’t think of Ian as moving onto “greener pastures,” instead, he’s moved onto greener fairways and smoother greens. May he always hit ‘em straight.

Quote of the Day: “I’m gambling that when we get into the next life, Saint Peter will look at us and ask, ‘Golfer?’ And when we nod, he will step aside and say, ‘Go right in; you’ve suffered enough.’ One warning, if you do go in and the first thing you see is a par 3 surrounded by water, it ain’t heaven. — Jim Murray.

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    March 12, 2010