|All Points West: Deter gave us reason to golf|
|May 13, 2016 Frank Marquez|
Resembling a young John Daly, long before his on and off-the-course antics, Gering freshman Brandyn Larsen stepped out onto the 18th hole to wrap up Friday’s round of the Gering Golf Invite, the No. 4 group on the day to finish. No offense to young Brandyn, he looked to be no sooner out of grade school than a young man entering high school; though his game exhibited more of an adult finish than some of his contemporaries. Larsen finished Gering’s home invite with a 91. His coach Keaton Green extolled the virtues of Larsen, among several freshman whose high school careers look promising.
This got me to wondering about the game I hardly played.
In all sincerity, I took the requisite golf lessons in high school in California to improve my swing and grip, spent a few days on the driving range, and discovered over time it was a game more conducive to kids with hours of leisure time and/or intense dedication (or patience). Chasing a ball along strips of grass and a maze of sand traps, patterned after the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland, a course dating to before 1574, which is considered a pilgrimage site for golf, did not appeal to me as much as football and wrestling. The first documented mention of golf in Scotland appears in a 1457 Act of the Scottish Parliament, an edict issued by King James II of Scotland prohibiting the playing of the games of “gowf” and football as these were a distraction from archery practice for military purposes.
Ironic how golf was founded in a cold-weather nation. I don’t think anyone has tried to tee off in the middle of winter at Monument Shadows Golf Course. Yet, that’s an idea in line with jumping into the North Platte as part of the Polar Plunge in February.
Golf can be played for a variety of reasons, and associating with the country club set, obviously, is not a requirement, what with all the public courses. Despite the rapid decline of Tiger Wood’s career after his dizzying rise to the top, the game is still steadily going up in popularity among all walks of life. Some golfers have taken a Zen approach to playing golf, as a way to block out the world. Others see it as a way to bring people together in a relatively peaceful setting.
That’s what Joe Mejia, Gering Class of 1985, thought. Like many of legendary wrestling coach Chuck Deter’s championship teams – Joe is a member of one – he wanted to thank his coach, and the Monument Shadows golf course seemed like the perfect place to do it. The seeds of what was to become known as the Deter Dynasty Scramble were planted. The first one was played in 2013 during the week-long Oregon Trail Days celebration. In the same week, Nebraska Hall of Fame.
Coach Deter received the key to the City of Gering, presented by then Mayor Ed Mayo, at the Steel Grill in Gering.
Deter coached the Gering High School wrestling team for 30 years between 1967 and 1997.
During his illustrious career, the program became one of the state’s most accomplished. Deter-coached teams earned six state championships between Class B (1976, 1979, 1980, and 1986) and Class A (1983 and 1997). He mentored an astonishing 23 wrestlers who together won 30 state championships.
After winning the Class A state title in 1997, Deter retired from coaching with a dual record of 264-43-5 that included a nine-year unbeaten streak of 106 matches. Deter continued to give of his time for a few years longer to Gering schools as a physical education teacher and the activities director.
On May 13, 2014, Deter, at 76, passed away at Heritage Estates in Gering. A giant in local sports, he won several local, state, and national coaching awards. Among achievements, he was presented the Guy Mitty Award, and was inducted into the Nebraska Sports Hall of Fame. Deter was a four-time Nebraska Wrestling Coach of the Year, and a two-time finalist for the National Wrestling Coach of the Year.
Joe now runs his own State Farm office in Colorado, hanging up his singlet long ago. He said he came up with the idea because “I wanted a way to honor Coach Deter and his wife Gretchen, for all they had given to the community.” Joe and his brother John, the City of Gering Treasurer, and another of the Bulldog standout wrestlers, spent a day golfing with Coach Deter in September 2012. “That’s when I asked him if it would be OK,” Joe said. “He reacted humbly, and said ‘there are more people deserving. It’s OK, but you don’t have to do that for me.’ ”
Insisting, Joe said, “I told him that’s what we’re going to do.”
Golfing was one of Deter’s passions, playing often as a member of the Scotts Bluff Country Club. His daughter Ally Berggren also golfed.
Joe, a two-time state wrestling champ at 98 pounds, was runner-up as a freshman in Class B. His titles came in his sophomore year in Class A, and in Class B in 1984. He took third in 1985 wrestling at 105 pounds.
The first scramble was played July 12, 2013. Deter golfed in the first one, with his wife Gretchen, daughter Ally, and son Tommy.
The fourth scramble is set for July 8 with an 8 a.m. shot-gun start, which means everyone tees off at the same time. “We are hoping for 36 teams. We had 29 teams last year,” Joe said. “A lot of the teams are former wrestlers. Some of the teams come from Scottsbluff, and as far away as Cheyenne and Ogallala to honor Deter. One fan from Ogallala sends a donation for a sponsorship every year.” These wrestlers on opposing teams had that much respect for Deter.
Joe, who golfs a couple of times a month, with varying scores, said “I do it just for fun.” Though he’s spending a few more hours on the course in preparation for the scramble in July. Joe is sponsoring two teams. One is made up of all local golfers:
Ashley Carter, Jim Hight, Nic Imus, and Kayla Wood. The second team, on which he will play, includes Heidi Margolis, John Mejia, and Pam O’Neill.
Gering wrestling coach JJ Behrens and Gering Wrestling Club Coach Frank Ybarra, as this year’s scramble organizers, will be opening registration sometime in June, which is when fees will be announced. Or, Joe said, golfers can contact the golf course directly to make reservations, but advises interested golfers to wait until June.
The proceeds go toward supporting the Gering Wrestling Club.
Like Larsen, maybe Coach Deter saw something in the game. My guess? Only a sport involving passion and honor can be something that special.
See you on the links.