STATESBORO, Ga. (WSAV) – Despite wind gusts and heavy rain making conditions tougher on the Georgia Southern University Golf Course, Eagles’ head coach Carter Collins couldn’t help but look up to the sky and smile.
“He definitely gave us some Scottish weather today and tomorrow. He’s smiling down on us.”
More than a decade after Thomas Sharkey died in a tragic house fire with his dad and sister, the Georgia Southern golf team kicked off its spring season with the late Eagle golfer on their mind.
“To win this, you’ve got to show some true grit,” Collins said, noting the Scottish golfer would have loved to play in this weather . “You have to get through some true competition to get to the winner’s circle and Sharkey wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Last weekend’s competition was more than just Georgia Southern’s first tournament of the season. It was the Thomas Sharkey Individual Collegiate, a tournament that now means the world to Collins and his team.
“We miss him a lot and to be able to honor him at this tournament means a lot to us,” Collins said, fighting back tears. “It allows us to tell his story again and keep his memory as fresh as possible.”
In late July 2011, Sharkey was vacationing in Scotland and getting ready to return to Statesboro when a fire broke out at his home, killing him along with his father and sister.
Collins, who picked Sharkey up at the airport for his first trip to Georgia Southern, said he remembers the day Sharkey died like it was yesterday.
“It’s one of those moments where you think this can’t be real,” Collins remembers. “It doesn’t really sink in until you put on a suit and start going to ceremonies.”
After the funeral, Collins and the team were determined to find ways to honor their late teammate. In the coming years, a memorial stone would be placed at the Eagles’ practice facility as well as a locker dedicated to Sharkey.
Now, Coach Collins hopes the winner of this new tournament will see the name on their trophy and understand Sharkey’s love for the game, his love for his teammates, and his love for Georgia Southern.
“He mad quite an impact and quite a legacy in the two years he was here. We’ve tried to honor him in a lot of ways, but we felt like this was just right.”