MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — The last words Mark Lemke heard from his boy, Cory, came in a voice mail:
"Got us a tee time Sunday over at Spencer," Cory said of their home course in northwest Iowa. "Gonna kick your butt."
Cory would have, too. The kid had game. A couple years earlier, at what is today the Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship, Cory, then 15, became the youngest entrant to win a flight and qualify for the final round. He wound up tied for eighth overall—not bad in a field of 3,000-plus golfers—and a few years later went on to play golf at Simpson College outside Des Moines.
Anyway, the phone message. Soon after leaving it, Cory borrowed a friend’s motorcycle, but not a helmet, and zoomed off to a car show not 20 minutes from their home. He never made it. Somewhere along the way Cory lost control of the bike and slammed into a van. Doctors pronounced him dead the following morning.
Mark was devastated. He had lost not only his son but also his golf partner. He was regretful too for never having trumpeted his son’s many golf accomplishments. So he wrote to Rick Reilly, then a columnist at Sports Illustrated, who in turn told Cory’s story to millions of SI readers.
Cory is also commemorated annually here at the sprawling World Amateur through the Mark & Cory Lemke Parent-Child Championship, a tournament within the tournament that pits parent-child tandems in a four-round net event. (The reigning champs are Sonny Hallman of Lake City, S.C., and his daughter Tanica Bell of Erie, Pa., who posted a 569 in 2009. Stay tuned for this year’s winners.)
"It meant the world to Mark to have Cory’s name on the tournament," says Brad Lemke, Mark’s brother, who is in Myrtle Beach this week not to compete but to help spread the word about the parent-child event. "I told him I’d do my best to keep it going."
You’ll note that Mark’s name is also now attached to the tournament. That’s because of another sad ripple in the Lemke story: Mark’s death, after a battle with brain cancer, in February. Brad says his brother would never have wanted his name on the tournament—he was the modest type—but, really, what better way to honor a father and son who found kinship through golf?
"They just loved it," Brad says.