SEWANEE, Tenn. -- The sizzling sun already burning off the glistening dew atop The Course at Sewanee's perfect greens early Wednesday morning, Doug Stein stood before some of the late King Oehmig's closest friends and family members and said, "The two courses we will play today occupied much of the dreaming space in King's heart and mind."
Oehmig's heart and mind were occupied by many things outside the two nine-hole courses that Stein referenced: Sewanee and South Pittsburg's Sweetens Cove. An Episcopal priest, a businessman, a philanthropist, for 12 years the unfathomably successful Baylor School golf coach, Oehmig made a huge impact on so many people and things — all of it for the good, too much good to have been tragically ended by a heart attack at the too-young age of 63 just 68 days ago today.
"King had such a positive influence on so many," noted Rob Collins, who designed Sweetens Cove. "He paved the way for me to become a golf course architect. It seemed like having an impact on people's lives was all in a day's work for him."
It had been at least nine years worth of work by Oehmig and Stein to dramatically upgrade Sewanee, the details finally shaped by Gil Hanse, the golf course architect who also designed the new Olympic course for the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil.
And the grand work of all these men — Collins, Hanse, Oehmig, Stein and others — already has both courses ranked among the top 10 or 12 nine-hole layouts in the country, despite being less than three years old.
But also partly because Wednesday was the United States Golf Association's second annual Play9 Day, the idea was hatched to stage the inaugural King Oehmig Cup, with all participants playing both Sewanee and Sweetens Cove, the money raised going to two of Oehmig's favorite charities: Metropolitan Ministries and Habitat for Humanity.
"Such a fitting way to honor Dad," said King's 34-year-old son Henry. "The Oehmig Cup incorporates two of his greatest loves in life — golf and charity."
Added King's good friend Gary Chazen: "He was such a class guy, a lovely man. He cared so much for the underserved."
He certainly cared about Baylor golf, coaching his alma mater to a mind-boggling 21 total boys' and girls' state titles in just 12 years on the job.
"He was on the course with me at Henry Horton State Park when we won the state in 1997," said Baylor basketball coach Austin Clark, who was then the school's athletic director. "I told him that Ron Cofer (the Red Raiders coach at that time) might be leaving us for a business opportunity. I'd barely gotten the words out of my mouth when he said, 'Can I start now?' Nobody's ever loved Baylor more than the entire Oehmig family."
How much did King Oehmig love Baylor? When current headmaster Scott Wilson got the job in 2009, he was still running the Brookstone School in Columbus, Ga.
"Out of the blue, King drives down from Chattanooga to congratulate me in person," Wilson recalled a few weeks ago. "We didn't even know each other that well back then. How many people would do that?"facebook
But it wasn't only Baylor. Or Sewanee, where Oehmig attended seminary. Or the Church of the Nativity in Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, which was the final church he served.
"His personality just filled up a room," Collins said. "He was so special."
And he and Stein and Chazen had long planned to fill a special day by playing both courses, by embracing nine-hole golf, which is beginning to make a steady comeback in this country.
"Nine holes reaches more people," Stein said. "Families have time for nine holes. Kids can play on nine-hole courses. Businessmen can squeeze in a round."
Family. Kids. Reaching people. Oehmig in a nutshell.
But then he died while enjoying another hobby, fishing, on Memorial Day weekend. And Stein and Chazen never got to fulfill their dream to play both courses on the same day until their great friend could no longer join them.
"He will be in my heart with every shot today," Stein said of Oehmig. "I also hope to find a little of his magic around the greens."
A year from now it will be different. Metropolitan Ministries has already renamed its 2016 golfing fundraiser in Oehmig's honor. There is early talk of adding a charity nearer Sewanee to the mix when next year's King Oehmig Cup rolls around.
Until then, a story Oehmig loved to tell that dramatically changed Stein's life deserves to be repeated by all whenever possible. It is the story of a Zen Master, and accepting what is rather than what we wish it was.
"As King would tell it," Stein said, "whenever someone came to the Zen Master to complain about all that was wrong in his life, the Zen Master would tell him to say this prayer to his God: 'Thank you for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever.'"
As Oehmig Cup play began Wednesday, so many stories concerning King being remembered and retold, if any message could define his family's and friends' time with him, that prayer might be it, with one slight amendment:
Thank you for everything. We have no complaint whatsoever, except we all wish King's reign could have lasted longer.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.