Seeing ‘Zach Strong’ through lens of golf outing
I enjoy golf. Or, stated more accurately, I enjoy watching golf. Playing it? Not so much.
My handicap? The time and patience needed to get better. If it isn’t a par-2 with a windmill, I’m not your guy.
But I do enjoy being around a golf course, and I marvel at those who can play it well.
My college roommate is one of those people. When we were in school, he tried and tried to get me to play, and we went out together a couple of times. He drove the ball 200-plus yards dead-center, while I sliced worm-burners that bounced 14 times before coming to a stop 35 yards off the tee.
Once, though, when we were playing—OK, he was playing; I was trying not to get thrown off the course for excessive divots—we approached a ball that sat a considerable distance from the flag. (Like I could tell you the exact yardage. We’ll call it 140 yards.) He suggested a particular iron, which I used and proceeded to place an up-and-down shot within about 3 feet of the hole. He turned, looked at me and said, “What did you do? Just keep doing that.” Only two problems: I had no clue what I had done correctly nor any idea how to replicate that swing. It remains my one shining moment as a golfer.
I have not played since that afternoon, but I have been on a course a handful of times to help at charity fundraising events. Those outings always seem to bring out the best in people—joviality and camaraderie amid friendly competitiveness that isn’t matched in many other settings.
Such was the case this past August, when I assisted with The Canton Repository’s inaugural Pay It Forward Golf Classic. The event honored the memory of Zach Herrera, a 16-year-old Hoover High School junior who had died from complications of a brain aneurysm the previous month. Generous friends and family—and some complete strangers to the Herrera family—raised thousands of dollars to fund scholarships in Zach’s name.
The reason why the outing was successful needs little explanation. Who wasn’t affected when hearing that a vibrant, energetic teen with nearly his entire life ahead of him had died so unexpectedly?
What happened in succeeding weeks, however, defied explanation. Week after week, opponents of the Vikings paid tribute to Zach in various ways. Student fans wore orange shirts or painted their faces in orange and black to stand in solidarity with Hoover and proclaim themselves “Zach Strong.”
Because of how Zach showed himself a leader in his short life and how the community rallied around his family and his teammates after his death, he is one of About magazine’s People of the Year.
Zach’s story and those of others who shaped our community in 2016 are on the following pages. Read them and be inspired.
Tips for spinning down the highway
Often, I must remind myself to live in the moment. But when our car was sideways and barrelling down the highway at 70 mph, I didn’t need to be reminded.
Traveling home from a holiday visit with family, we hit a rough patch of weather. It was rainy, but “I don’t think it is cold enough for it to freeze,” I said.
It was, at least for a small stretch of highway. It just looked wet.
Then, I felt the car sway a bit in a way that told me I wasn’t really in control anymore. Then the car started to go sideways.
There are plenty of helpful tips for when you find yourself in this situation. Of course, I forgot them all.
We braced for impact, and I thought of my girls in the backseat.
Just before we went off the right side of the road, I was able to turn the car back. We swerved way over to the left side of the road, I corrected, and we went back to the right.
Then, we went far back to the left. I had it straightened out as best I could and headed into the median. It caught us like a sponge, and we skidded through deep, wet grass.
My daughters yelped in the back of the car, and my wife braced her hand to the ceiling. The squishy median slowed us down enough to be safe, and I used the last bit of momentum to turn us out of the grass and onto the side of the road.
Just like that, it was all OK.
I turned on the hazard lights, and we sat there for a moment. My heart was beating hard.
“Is everyone OK?” I asked.
“Are we still going to get McDonald’s breakfast?” my 4-year-old daughter asked.
My wife and I looked at each other and shared a laugh that tried to sum up our horror and relief.
“Yes,” I said. “Let’s go get some McDonald’s.”
Promises were made and even death itself was not going to stop us.
We are in the thick of the hazardous driving season. Here are a few things to remember now and forget when you really need them. Several sites online offer their best advice for driving on icy roads: “Don’t drive on icy roads.” But, they also give some useful advice, too:
• If you start sliding, steer in the direction that the back of your car is sliding. But don’t overcorrect so much that you’ll have the same problem in the other direction. A little steering goes a long way.
• Don’t slam on the brakes. It will just make the sliding worse and may cause you to spin. Take your foot off the gas.
• Wear your seat belts.
• When the weather is bad, slow down. That’s the big thing I took away from our little adventure. Slow down, stay calm and keep an eye out for the next exit with a McDonald’s.