Keith Clark remembers his first phone call when he took the job as head professional at Harrison Lake Country Club in 2012.

It was John Carmichael.

The two had become friends when Clark was the pro at Otter Creek. Carmichael, who had become a member at Harrison Lake, was the first one to welcome Clark to his new job.

Carmichael, one of the best known figures in the Columbus basketball and golfing communities, died Tuesday at the age of 68.

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Clark, who left Harrison Lake in January to become pro at Hillcrest Country Club in Indianapolis, remembers Carmichael’s passion for basketball, conquering his golf swing and his grandkids.

“I can’t say enough about the guy,” Clark said.

“He was never going to come on property and leave until you heard at least one of his jokes that day. He was just an awesome man, and what was so prominent was, as much as he loved the club and loved the game, there was only one thing that stood out more, and that was that he was attending all of his grandkids’ sporting events.”

Carmichael played basketball for Columbus High School when it was in its heyday in the mid-1960s. He was a junior varsity player in 1962-63, when the Bull Dogs went undefeated in the regular season and lost to eventual state champion Muncie Central in the semistate.

Butch Wade, a senior on that North team and an Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer, remembers practicing and scrimmaging against Carmichael and the JV.

“He’s the kind of guy you want on your team, no matter what kind of season you’re having,” Wade said. “John was a good player in his own right, but he was just so easygoing and levelheaded about things, you never hear him say a bad word about other guys. It was never about ‘I’m not getting to play,’ or that sort of thing. He was just glad to be in with that group.”

Carmichael was a representative for Wilson Golf Company and later was a national sales rep for Delta Faucet. He coached basketball at Parkside Elementary, winning Elementary Basketball League championships in 1993 and 1994.

The past three years, Carmichael was the assistant boys golf coach at Columbus North. His first year with the team, in 2014, the Bull Dogs won the state championship.

“He loved kids and watching them succeed and do their best,” North head boys golf coach Doug Bieker said. “He was encouraging to kids all the time. He was probably a good balance to have because I’m not always the most encouraging.”

Bieker first met Carmichael when Carmichael’s stepson, Brandon Anderson played golf for him in Bieker’s first couple years of coaching at North. When Bieker considered hiring Carmichael as an assistant, Carmichael was working as a spotter at a USGA Tournament at Otter Creek.

About two weeks ago, Carmichael fell ill while vacationing in the Bahamas. He was medevaced to the critical care unit at Methodist Hospital and never recovered.

Carmichael had told Bieker that this was going to be his last year coaching. He had grandkids that were competing in sports and didn’t want to miss those, but he wanted to see this group of golf seniors through to graduation.

“He knew a lot of those kids growing up,” Bieker said. “He always seemed if the moment was too tense, he knew how to make a joke to relax everybody. He had that gift that not everybody has. We’ll certainly be missing him a lot.”

Michael VanDeventer, a senior on the 2014 team and state co-medalist with teammate Christian Fairbanks, was especially close to Carmichael.

VanDeventer, who is now a junior on the Ball State team, said there have been numerous times when he’d come home from school on a break, and would call Carmichael. They would meet for breakfast the next morning and talk about golf or school or anything else for hours.

“Above all, he was just a really good friend,” VanDeventer said. “He was somebody I could talk to about anything. You got a sense that he really cared about you and wanted the best for you. He’ll definitely be missed.”

Wade agreed.

“He never met many strangers,” Wade said. “He got along with anybody and everybody. He was one of those very special people that you like to surround yourself with.”

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.