Memories of Willie Kane

By Jerry FoltzJanuary 15, 2006, 5:00 pm
The eerie silence was all to common to those of us in the team van one spring day in 1984 as we pulled away from the Sanford Intercollegiate en route to our next college tournament in Northern California. Once again, we had performed well below our capability, and our coach wasn't impressed in the least.
 
The University of Arizona was considered to be a premier college golf program, yet once again, we didn't deliver.
 
Shortly into the trip to Stockton, we disguised our own disappointment with a game of high ball-low ball. As a six-man team we went through our hole-by-bole scores to determine our team best ball followed by our team worst ball. Sixty-seven was the best we could do, meaning that out of six players, we only had five birdies for the entire day. But when we started calculating the worst ball, we quickly realized that we couldn't be touched. Surely no one could match 98.
 
I pitched in two doubles and a triple. Dave Pooley added a couple of 'others' of his own. But it was Willie who brought it home with a 9 on the final hole. It was understandable if coach Rick LaRose didn't share in our enthusiasm for this unequivocal title assumption, but the rest of us were enjoying our own personal carnage assessment nonetheless.
 
Knowing that our conversation was the only way to make the long drive to Stockton tolerable, we continued. We proceeded to sound-off our three-day individual totals. Par was 216, and John Schoonover started the procession with a proud team-low proclamation or 224. Next was Magnus with something like 228. Myself, 242, and on down the line. Willie was last to speak, and instead of stating a 34-over-par 250, Willie drew the biggest laugh when he proudly proclaimed his score -- two............and...........a half.
 
Last Saturday, Willie completed another challenge in two and a half, but the result couldn't be further from the humor we found in his first.
 
Last Saturday, Willie Kane completed the Disney Half-Marathon in roughly two and a half hours. Moments later, he was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
 
The 43-year-old father of two lived, and died, his worst nightmare.
 
Willie was just 5-years-old when his father died at the age of 42 of a brain tumor. Being the youngest of six children, Willie only knew of the void in his life left by the early passing of his father. His memories weren't near as vivid as his siblings. But his goal in life was to not leave his two boys with the same void. And Willie knew how to accomplish goals.
 
It's reported that Willie essentially talked his way onto his high-school golf team. It wasn't his talent that got him a roster spot, just an undeniable and contagious belief in himself that his coach accurately sensed. From there, he walked-on to the University of Arizona golf team with little hope of ever achieving a spot on the traveling squad. But nobody told Willie that. He worked harder than any human I've ever met, and he knew deep in his heart that someday he would earn that spot regardless what others thought. By the time he received his degree, Willie had earned All Pac-10 honors as a standout on the golf team.
 
During college, Willie earned his way by working ridiculous hours at the Randolph Municipal driving range. His boss was former PGA Tour star Homero Blancas, and Willie revered him. Homero took Willie under his wing and taught him what it took to not only be a good player, but what it took to be a champion.
 
At the time, Homero had what was considered to be one of the cushiest head pro jobs in the area. Head pro at a public facility meant very few headaches with members, and little to tolerate in terms of politics and oversight. Homero could have handled any situation, but this one seemed to fit him perfectly. And Willie used to talk about it all the time. Somehow, the rest of us knew that someday, Willie would end up with Homero's job, and for the last five years, that's exactly what Willie had'his 'dream job.'
 
As a professional golfer, Willie chased the dream for quite a few years. That quest took him to the far-off reaches of the globe. It found him struggling to make ends-meet on many occasions. But somehow, everyone who knew Willie knew that he would succeed -- that he would be ok.
 
Eventually, Willie settled on the life of a club pro. Sometimes life happens, and for Willie, that life would entail getting married and starting a family. Willie pursued life, and golf, with a passion, and now his passion was redirected. His passion became that which he really never had -- to be the best dad in the world and be there for his two boys the way he'd often dreamed his dad could have been there for him.
 
Before Willie landed his dream job at Randolph, he spent time as head pro at another public course. From time to time, our paths would cross, and each time Willie was the same exact person that I met in 1982.
 
Willie and I were roommates when I first got to U of A, and of the many memories that I'll take with me forever, none are more prominent that his ability to make you smile and feel good about yourself. You see, Willie took his responsibilities very seriously. He took his golf and his education seriously. He took his role in the community seriously and volunteered to help coach his old high school team. He gave of himself anytime a junior golfer needed advice, or instruction, or just somebody to listen. Obviously, he took his role as a father very seriously. Willie took everything in the world seriously, except himself.
 
Willie never once complained when things didn't go his way. He never got discouraged, he never looked back. He just continued to astound when he would grit his teeth, work harder, keep a positive attitude, and finish whatever job he set out to do. He might have seemed like a dreamer, or a hoper, but he wasn't. He was a doer. Willie got things done -- he never stopped until his goals were accomplished.
 
Willie started to train and get into shape for a number of reasons. He still had some things to accomplish as a player and conditioning was a big part of the process. But mostly, he wanted to be as healthy as he could to insure that he would be around long enough to watch his kids grow. He saw jogging and running the marathon as one step in that direction.
 
While training, Willie would get frustrated when his body wouldn't cooperate. When he couldn't make it that extra mile, he got mad, but he pushed. He had seen a doctor to make sure that he could handle the physical exertion, and although some caution was urged, nothing was detected that would suggest he couldn't handle the training.
 
Willie Kane finished 4,871st out of a field of 11,761 in the Disney Half Marathon, and although we'll never know what Willie was thinking coming down that final stretch, we do know that Willie was going to finish the race.
 
Willie Kane finished every race.
 
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    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

    Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

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