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Julian Lives On

I called Scott Peters shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon, my heart and eyes swept away from TNTs marathon coverage of The Open Championship. Peters lifelong best friend, Jeff Julian, died this morning. ALS had ravaged his once tall and fit frame, but his crazy and wonderful spirit was still striding the fairways of the kind of obscure New England track he and his pal had played hundreds of times.
Its gray and overcast at The New Hampshire State Amateur Championship at Laconia C.C. in the Lakes Region.
Jeff and I are on our way to the first tee, Peters tells me. We won our second round match this morning. Win this afternoon and we play the quarters tomorrow.
Its not best ball, just a best friend hanging on. Peters is carrying a button with Jeffs smiling face on it.
We had them made up when Jeff played The U.S. Open at Shinnecock in 95, he recounts. We called ourselves Julians Hooligans. Its one of our greatest memories. Jeff holed out for eagle at 14 with a 6-iron in the second round.
Peters and Julian met as kids playing little league baseball in New Hampshire. Peters grew up in Hanover. Across the river in Norwich, Vt, Jeff spent summers on the family farm.
You couldnt help but gravitate towards him, Peters remembers.
The Julian roots run deep through New England. Jeffs grandfather Doggie coached Bob Cousy and Holy Cross to the NCAA Championship in 1947. Jeffs own father played for Doggie later at Dartmouth and captained the Big Green to an Ivy title in 1964. In a way, Jeff was the sixth man on the Julian family team. The lone boy, he had five sisters.
Peters and Julian bounced towards golf in their teens, swapping club titles at Hanover C.C. Scotts brother Mike and Steve Lyon, now the superintendent at the club, rounded out a merry band that partied with as much gusto as it played.
When I think of Jeff, Scott says, I think of all the things he loved. It was simple. He loved being with friends and he loved playing golf.
Jeff got good enough to go pro, the twisting roads through small New England tournaments, often with his rowdy sisters in tow, taking him where no one from Vermont had ever gone, to The PGA Tour.
Scott, scratch on the course and in business, would eventually own three Golf and Ski Shops in New England. He sponsored Jeff in the early days.
Jeff won on the Nationwide Tour in 1997. He labored through a second stint on the big circuit in 2001 before being diagnosed in October of that same year.
Minutes from his tee time, Peters remembers the moment.
The day he got diagnosed, we made plans to go play the TPC at Sawgrass. Me, Jeff, my brother Mike and Steve Lyon. We played golf during the day and drank beer at night. It was an incredibly special weekend. His voice cracks.
That was the last time the four of us played together.
The decision was made Wednesday night to take Jeff off the respirator.
I had three years to prepare for this, explains Scott. You would have thought that would have made me more comfortable, but its still not enough time. It hit me like a ton of bricks.
The guy had passion. He had a love of life, a love for everything he did. Whether he was cooking out or sledding down a hill, he lived. He lived. He had a magnetic smile and personality.
Suddenly, that third round match with destiny snaps Peters back to the moment. Hes holding that button, holding it in his hands as he tries to hold his emotions in check.
Im carrying it with me. I touch it on every single shot.
Email your thoughts to Rich Lerner
Related Links:
  • More on Jeff Julian's Story
  • Driving 4 Life Website
  • ALS Therapy Development Foundation