The Columbus North golfers are honoring the late John Carmichael with just about every shot they take this season.
The eighth-ranked Bull Dogs, who will play in the Conference Indiana Tournament today at Winding River Golf Course in Indianapolis, have been playing all season with special golf balls to recognize their former assistant coach.
The golf balls feature the letters “JCC,” which are his initials; “CHS,” for his alma mater, Columbus High School; and the number “31,” which was his basketball number for the Bull Dogs during their glory years in the 1960s.
“I just think it’s nice because he’ll always be with us during every shot in spirit and with us physically with the golf balls,” senior Bryce Turner said. “It’s just a reminder every minute that we play, who we’re playing for and what we’re trying to do this year.”
Turner and fellow seniors Spencer Fairbanks, Zachary Schiavello and Matt Vorndran, along with head coach Doug Bieker, came up with the idea after Carmichael died in March, shortly before the season began.
Carmichael fell ill while vacationing in the Bahamas and was medevaced to the critical care unit at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis but never recovered.
“We’re just kind of devoting the season to coach Carmichael,” Vorndran said. “He always made funny jokes just to cheer us up when we had a bad shot or a bad day on the golf course.”
Carmichael had been an assistant for three years. His first year, with team, North captured the state title in 2014.
This year’s seniors were freshman on that team, and although none played varsity in that postseason, three of them did as sophomores. Fairbanks qualified for state as an individual that year.
“It’s cool every shot to see the logo,” Fairbanks said. “He helped us relax on the course and really how to stay in it mentally.”
Bieker and Andrew Stolze, the new pro at Harrison Lake Country Club, talked to representatives at Titleist to see if they could put the special letters and numbers on the golf balls.
The response was quick. Bieker had the golf balls by the time the season began April 1.
“We wanted to do something to kind of recognize and honor John and his memory, and all the seniors kind of as a group thought it would be a nice idea,” Bieker said. “It’s a nice way to remember John.”
The booster club at North helped pay for the golf balls. Bieker gives each of his golfers one of the balls for each nine-hole match and two for an 18-hole match.
Schiavello thought the golf balls would be a good thing to do to honor Carmichael.
“He definitely had a large influence on us off the course,” Schiavello said. “Every time we’d see him around like at a basketball game or something, we’d always stop by and say ‘Hi’ to him and just have a nice conversation with him.”
“I think it went beyond the golf course for me,” Turner said. “We could always text him, and he would always call us after a nice round or even a bad round, and we could always go over to his house and talk to him about anything. I think it was more than just being a great assistant coach; he was more of a great friend than anything.”
What: Conference Indiana boys golf tournament
When: 9 a.m. today
Where: Winding River Golf Course, Indianapolis
Teams: Columbus North, Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Franklin Central, Perry Meridian, Southport, Terre Haute North, Terre Haute South