May 2, 2007
By: Michael N. Graff
Staff writer for The Fayetteville Observer
His name has already appeared in three obituaries, each time following the words "survived by."
Derek Scott is only 19. And already he's lost his dad, Terry, to cancer last June; his mother, Sylvia, also to cancer in 1995; and his half-brother, Michael, in a car accident in 1999.
But while those are defining moments in Derek's story, it almost seems strange to start there.
Because if you've ever seen him, whether he's working at Cypress Lakes Golf Course or playing around with the Fayetteville State golf team, you'd never know he's mourned a minute.
He's a peaceable person, always open for a conversation. He's not loud, not shy. He won't heap his hardship on you, but he won't hide anything if you ask.
He plays life the way he hits a golf ball -- even and down the middle.
"Derek holds it in very well," said Ian Milne, a Fayetteville State teammate. "There's few and far between like Derek."
Derek, a sophomore, can deal with his troubles because he's still not alone. His stepmother, Linda Scott, married Terry only a few years after his mom died. Derek still lives with Linda, off campus in their home in Hoke County.
"We've got each other and we lean on each other," Linda said. "He's an intelligent young man. And he seems to handle things very well."
Like father, like son
If something could have broken Derek, it would have been his dad's death last summer. He was 6 when his mom died, and says he was too young to remember much about her. He was 12 when his half-brother died, but Michael had only recently moved in.
Terry and Derek were cut the same, and bound inseparable.
Like his son, Terry was laid-back. He rarely pushed the speed limit on the road, and rarely was irritated.
One thing that made him spring, though, was his son's golf.
He made all of Derek's practices at South View High School. When Terry couldn't join Derek's foursome, he'd walk the course.
Derek says his dad was never a nuisance. But he often did have to remind Terry to stand back.
"He'd try to hold the flag if he could," Derek said. "And me, I was always worried about losing a (penalty) stroke."
Terry battled cancer for nearly 10 years, but his health declined rapidly in the final month.
He died the Monday before Father's Day.
"I was trying to think of what to get him as a gift," Derek said. "And then it was, never mind."
Campers and RVs parked outside Derek and Linda's home, filled with Terry's brothers and sisters during the final days.
Derek doesn't remember much about the week. He thinks he watched the U.S Open in his free time. The final round takes place on Father's Day.
He does remember feeling some connection to Tiger Woods, whose dad, Earl, died a few weeks earlier.
When Tiger missed the cut at the Open, Derek understood.
"I wasn't ready to do anything," Derek said. "I didn't feel like doing anything."
Derek tossed his golf clubs in the closet for a month.
But he did finish his summer courses. And he continued working at Cypress Lakes, greeting visitors at the front desk with the same smile and soft conversations.
Derek, Terry and Linda had a trip planned to Puerto Rico later in the summer. Linda and Derek went anyway, bringing along a family friend.
Derek played golf on the trip.
Fayetteville State coach Raymond McDougal has a motto -- "Live on."
It's a reminder to his players to enjoy riding life's waves, no matter where they carry them.
McDougal didn't know whether Derek would return to golf this year. But when he heard Derek was swinging again, McDougal jumped in.
"We don't force the guys to do anything. It's best if you make up your own mind," McDougal said. "But when he comes, then you've got to be able to help him."
Derek, who was the No. 2 golfer on the Broncos' national minority championship team last spring, has helped make this year's team the best McDougal says he's ever had.
Including Derek, Fayetteville State has four golfers capable of breaking 70. The Broncos haven't shot worse than 300 as a team (four players' scores count) in a round since March.
They believe they can be the first Fayetteville State team ever to qualify for the NCAA national finals, which would mean they'd have to win the Atlantic Regional (May 7-9) or finish high enough to earn one of three at-large bids.
Solace in golf
If that wasn't enough, Derek's mind is further scrambled this week by final exams. Still, he hardly fidgets.
He walked onto the back porch of Stryker Golf Club on Monday afternoon, pulled out a chair and took a seat overlooking the 18th hole.
"Golf heals everything," he said, letting out a quick but painless exhale.
Coming out of South View, he chose Fayetteville State because he didn't want to be far from home with his dad sick.
Now he's free to try anything.
"It was like a time bomb waiting to go off. You knew it was going to happen. It was just a matter of when," Linda said. "He's ready to spread his wings a little bit."
After the NCAA postseason tournaments, Derek will try to qualify for the U.S. Open.
Beyond that, he's not sure what will happen.
His teammates ask him regularly if he'll be back as a junior. Truthfully, he says, he hasn't decided.
He may stay put. He may try a new scene.
For now, he's playing it down the middle.
"I don't know what anybody's got for the future," he says. "You never do."
Staff writer Michael N. Graff can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3591.