Myers: more than just a coach

Last spring, I remember calling my dad, who always has loved golf, to tell him I would be covering the men's golf beat.

It seemed mildly ironic at the time, considering I was the same girl who perpetually ribbed my dad about how golf was just a game and not a sport, begging him to change the channel whenever he watched the Western-Eastern-[insert car brand name here] Open on Saturdays instead of baseball.

It's amazing how one year can make such a difference in our lives, but even more amazing how one person can.

Rod Myers was the kind of man who changed people's lives, even if in subtle ways, even if he didn't know it.

When I registered for his account to follow his progress, I pored though the message boards. Amid all of the prayers and get-well wishes, one post in particular stood out to me.

It was from a woman who had only met Myers once on a golf course, but who said that "in that short time, [she] saw all that [her husband] speaks of so often" and that her husband attributes their marriage to Myers.

In the altogether-too-short time in which I knew Coach Myers, I learned that almost every person who met him has a "Rod Myers story."

His unmatched passion for the game of golf, his players and this University was infectious-and his slow yet enthusiastic drawl just added to his charm. The way he treated everyone as if they were each of the utmost importance to him made so many people feel so connected to him when he was alive and saddened when he passed.

I'd like to share a few of the hundreds of Coach Myers stories that have recently surfaced, particularly a more light-hearted one. That would be a fitting tribute to a man who took his job and his success seriously but never hesitated to crack a joke along the way.

Almost every person I have interviewed about Myers has said that he was like a second father, someone the players trusted and looked to for guidance. Mike Castleforte-a Duke golfer from 2002 to 2004 and the author of the letter to Myers that ran in Golfweek in early March-shared one of his favorite Myers stories and another way the coach was like a father to the team.

The Blue Devils were in Evanston, Ill. for a tournament at Northwestern. Like on most other road trips, the team rented a van so the players could travel with their clubs. Castleforte said that as Myers was driving, he and his teammates noticed a group of girls dressed to go out and said, "Look Coach, Northwestern girls!" Just like a father who wouldn't want to miss an opportunity to give his sons a hard time, Myers pulled up to the curb, opened the automatic side door from his driver's seat and let his players say hello to the lovely Wildcat ladies.

"He just waved and got this big smile on his face and said, 'Hi girls,' and didn't pull away until we were totally embarrassed," Castleforte said.

Because the team travels so much and over such great distances, some of the best stories are also the simplest ones-the ones about the players in vans or going to dinner or hitting the range with their coach.

And they loved spending time with him, right up to the end.

The current Duke players got the opportunity to visit Myers while he was recovering from his treatments. At that point, he was not in the best physical condition, but how he was feeling was secondary to how he wanted his players to feel.

"It was a really special thing for me," senior Jake Grodzinsky said. "Even with him going through all this crazy stuff, he was still real present and doing everything he make us feel better about it-just looking us in the eye, holding our hands."

Throughout his life, Myers' players and his program came first.

In August, I met with Myers at the Karcher-Ingram Center, and we talked for two hours-which shouldn't have surprised me considering this was the same man who stepped away from the tee-box and into a hazard when All-American Ryan Blaum was finishing his practice round for the NCAAs to talk with some lowly freshman reporter on the phone.

I didn't realize until sitting with junior Michael Schachner two weeks ago why Myers spent so much time showing me every room and luxury in the Center. Sitting on a cart facing the Center, Schachner said, "This is what he probably dreamt that Duke golf would turn into."

Myers was living his dream, which seemed so appropriate for a man who dedicated his life to cultivating the aspirations of young men.

Blaum, who is now a professional on the Nationwide Tour, said it best.

"Each player that came, each student that came, [Myers] had an unsurpassed knowledge of golf and improved their golf games, but he also improved their characters," Blaum said. "Not only did he demonstrate that through his character, but he demands that from his players. The ages of 18 to 22 are such influential ages, and he was able to mold lives for years to come."

It's clear that the man who players affectionately called "Coachie" was taken from us too soon. There are a lot of young men out there still needing to be molded.


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