Commentary | Manatee-Sarasota golf community lost a friend

jdill@bradenton.comAugust 9, 2012 

Last week, the golfing community lost someone.

I lost a friend.

I won't get to play one more round with him, nor will I get to see that bright smile one last time.

But remembering a friend isn't about that, it's about reflecting on the moments that made that person's life so rich and full.

And Kevin Richard Mark certainly had a wonderful time in his 41 years on this earth. His time here was cut short by cancer.

The viewing and funeral were held in Sarasota, where Kevin lived with his wife and two daughters.

He worked at Laurel Oak Country Club as an assistant pro.

That's where I met Kevin. I worked outside in the bag room in 2001.

Director of golf Matt Auen brought Kevin down from the Bayou Club in Largo, where the two worked together.

Once Kevin came to Laurel Oak, it became apparent he knew golf and had business savvy.

That business sense was recounted last week at a celebration of his life.

Kevin loved Puma golf shirts and was adamant about getting them in Laurel Oak's golf shop. However, they didn't look stylish. But in typical Kevin fashion, he knew what he was talking about, and the order Laurel Oak received of Puma shirts ended up selling like hot cakes.

Kevin's passion for golf translated into success, too, within the Southwest Chapter of the North Florida PGA. The chapter encompasses the area, including Manatee County.

Kevin became the president of the chapter's assistants association, taking charge of a group that didn't see a whole lot of activity.

He changed that.

His leadership brought a revival among area assistant pros, enabling Kevin to become the chapter's team captain in the 2010 Assistant's Cup held at Laurel Oak.

I covered the event for the Herald, and despite the NFPGA squad losing 13-11 to the South Florida PGA Southwest Chapter, Kevin saw a silver lining.

"To win eight out of 12 matches, everyone has to be playing good," he said in October 2010 about the comeback needed in the singles portion of the Ryder Cup-styled tournament. "That would have been a huge comeback. I would have been extremely happy if that had happened. We won the day 6 1/2 to 5 1/2, so I was very happy to see that. It'll give us, maybe, some momentum for the future that, 'Hey, we can beat these guys. We beat them straight up in singles.'"

That was Kevin, and it translated to the way he helped so many golfers improve their games. He earned the Southwest Chapter Assistant's Award in 2012 for being "the Assistant PGA Professional whose enthusiasm, growth and leadership to the facility and involvement in the Chapter reflect the potential to lead and contribute to the future of the game and industry," according the chapter website.

His optimism is what I saw when we teed it up together the handful of rounds we got in after I left Laurel Oak to complete my college degree and become a journalist.

He wasn't a Jack Nicklaus type, meaning course strategy wasn't at the top of his agenda. I'm similar. The word "lay up," isn't in our golf vocabulary.

Consequently, we'd play Laurel Oak's West Course and he would always, always, always go for the par-5 17th in two. No matter how his drive ended up.

And more than likely, the shot found the hazard. But his going-for-broke mentality is something I tried emulating.

A massive sports fan, Kevin's favorites were the St. Louis Cardinals and the Florida Gators. The Cards gave him one more world title to celebrate last fall. Perhaps the Gators can claim a national title in football this fall?

Kevin left behind a 3-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old daughter. He left behind a wife of five years, a sister and his mother.

And many friends and golfers touched by his unselfish, good-natured way.

There are many more stories about Kevin during our 11-year friendship that began almost immediately upon his arrival to Sarasota. But they're better left for another time.

The golfing community lost someone important.

I lost a friend, gone too soon.

Jason Dill, Herald sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill.

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