A relatively few people have played golf at William Blount High School. Even fewer have an annual golf tournament played in their honor. Fewer still have had such a profound and lasting impact on the entire program.
Former Governor Brandon Vick did all of that and more before his untimely death just after his high school graduation.
The Governor’s Classic Golf Tournament, scheduled for May 7 at Royal Oaks, was first held Vick’s senior golf season in 2002 as a fundraiser for the team. In August of that year, Vick was a rising freshman at Walter State Community College when a car accident took his life.
The Governors first thought of naming the tournament in honor of Fellowship of Christian Athletes activist Payne Stewart, a player Vick idolized, former William Blount coach Mark Davidson said. Vick admired everything about the former PGA champion, right down to Stewart’s classy knickers.
Vick went so far as to rig himself a makeshift pair for one of his matches, using a pair of dress slacks and electrical tape to bring off the look. Vick and Stewart also shared the same favorite Bible verse, Colossians 3:23, which was read aloud at Vick’s funeral. The verse reads: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;”
Vick was the undisputed spark for the Governors his senior season, Davidson said.
“There were times when you wanted to just pinch his ears, but you couldn’t because then he’d do something so funny, and you just couldn’t stay mad,” he said.
Vick’s sense of humor and whimsical attitude did a lot to improve the moral of the team.
“He said to me his freshman year: ‘We’re gonna turn this program around.’ And they pretty much did,” Davidson said.
“Their record wasn’t great, but it ended up a lot better than it was (previously),” Lisa Hill, Vick’s mother, said. “He was not the best golfer by any means, but he was a great cheerleader.”
Indeed, after Vick’s best friend on the team, Jeff Welshan, won that season’s first tournament, it was Vick whose smile beamed broadest, Davidson said.
“He was so full of life,” he said. “Vivacious, vivacious is the best word to describe him,”
It was that mix of ebullient personality and faith that touched so many of Vick’s friends and family members, Hill said. The ways in which her son has helped turn around so many lives has amazed her, she said.
“You just never know whose life you’re going to impact,” Hill said.
Welshan was one of those lives. A spiritual awakening, undoubtedly ignited by Vick, led him to become a youth minister.
Also a fundraiser for the Pete Maravich and Stan Ballard scholarships, along with the one that honors Vic, the Governor’s Classic serves as a reminder of what it means to make a difference in people’s lives, Davidson said. Though perhaps slightly less known than the tournament’s other namesakes, Vick’s footprints on William Blount High School athletics are as unmistakable as spikes in soft turf, his memory is preserved precisely where he would have wanted.
To register or sponsor the Governor’s Classic, contact William Blount golf coach Jason Rowe at Jason.Rowe@blountk12.org or call 984-5500.