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A Golfer in the Snow

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If snow is involved, a story about a golfer usually involves the fact that he or she:

  1. Played when it was so cold it started snowing;
  2. The dare -- "I dare you to play in the snow;"
  3. A Chili Open -- an event played during the winter with black/orange or dark colored golf balls on a snow-covered course. Usually, these rounds are a few holes and played for charity. It's the golfers' version of the "Polar Bear Clubs" -- individuals in the north jumping into freezing lakes or rivers for charity.

This past week the story was a little different.

This story involves men's assistant coach Chris Whitten helping out both his squad and the U-M women's golf team.

Of course, "Snowmageddon" came a few weeks after it was predicted, and this past Monday morning we found ourselves under close to 10 inches of the white stuff. A few more inches on Monday night didn't help the situation, creating small problems for some and havoc for others.

So, when Whitten arrived at University Michigan Golf Course clubhouse Tuesday dressed in his normal attire -- for a golfer that means golf clothes, of course -- he noticed a potential issue.

Whitten, who did not accompany coach Andrew Sapp and the team on their trip to the Puerto Rico Classic, knew both golf teams would be returning late that night -- the women's team of head coach Cheryl Stacey had traveled to its second competition of the year, in Parrish, Fla. -- and he noticed their cars. The cars were parked before the snow fell and had been sitting outside through the nearly 10 inches of snow and freezing rain. Add the wake of the snow that was pushed toward the cars by plows cleaning the area, and there was a couple feet of snow and ice packed around each automobile.

Whitten didn't "putt" around, he jumped into action.

He wrapped garbage bags around his shoes (yes, golf shoes without the spikes) and his pant legs and spent the next few hours digging cars out of the snow and then cleaning their windows, with golf course employee Steve Plunkett helping finish the project.

"It was about a half dozen cars he had to dig out and clean," said Michigan Golf Course general manager Chantel Jackson. "The snow was piled up so high I wish I could have taken a picture of what was happening."

"If we had an employee of the month award, Chris Whitten would have to be the winner," said longtime clubhouse manager Charlie Green. "He went well beyond what most any of us would do to make sure that when the teams returned at 1 a.m. they wouldn't have to spend the next hour or so digging out."

Kudos to Chris Whitten -- he went above and beyond his duty as a golf coach.

And now, if he says one of his golfers has a swing like someone shoveling snow, one can easily say with confidence, "Whitten knows what he is talking about."