The Warriors knew they were going to do something.
Former Washington assistant golf coach Ken Martens, who had been diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma earlier this year, would be traveling up from Omaha to watch the second round of the Boys City Golf Meet at Elmwood Golf Course on Tuesday.
Washington’s golfers wanted to show their support for him.
“We all knew when Ken came up here that we’d do something for him,” junior Hank Eggebraaten explained. “So I was thinking about it for a while, and then (we) finally got the opportunity to do it and it turned out pretty nice.”
Eggebraaten’s idea? Black ribbons – the color designated for melanoma awareness.
“Me and my dad went to Walmart (Monday night) and picked up some ribbon and made them all that night – 34 ribbons,” he explained. “We, as a team, appreciated Ken very much and we thought this would be a cool dedication to him.”
“We wanted to say thanks to him and let him know that we’re here with him, and behind him in his battle with cancer,” Washington coach Doug Rinken added.
What Eggebraaten did not expect was for the coaches and players from Lincoln, O’Gorman and Roosevelt to all wear the ribbons, as well.
“I didn’t expect that big a turnout,” he said, “but it was pretty awesome to see everybody supporting Ken in his battle.”
It was an impactful gesture for a man most of them had known since they first started playing the game.
“These kids, they’re all special to me,” Martens said. “I’ve known a lot of them since they were five and six… It’s fun to watch them.”
Martens, who volunteered as an assistant coach at Washington for four years, moved to Sioux Falls in 2002. His eldest grandson, Brennan Couet, grew up playing alongside quite a few golfers from around the area, including current Warriors Eggebraaten and Will Grevlos, as well as O’Gorman’s Bryce Hammer.
“I’ve known (Martens) for a while,” Hammer said. “I’ve been friends with Brennan since we first started playing golf – six or seven years old.”
“We started playing in tournaments together when we were really young,” Grevlos explained. “(Martens) and Brennan were also members at the Country Club of Sioux Falls with me and Hank, so we really got to spend some time with him out there.”
Couet, 16, lettered with the Warriors’ varsity team as a seventh grader, and stayed with the team through his freshman year of high school. But after ninth grade, he decided to focus exclusively on ice hockey. In August, his family moved to Omaha where he’s playing AAA.
“We got them all moved in and then it was, ‘Okay Papa, when are you moving down here?’,” Martens said.
Around Christmas time, Martens and his wife joined their grandchildren in Omaha.
It was during a trip to his home in Arizona that Martens noticed something was wrong. He was dealing with high blood pressure and had a blood clot – Martens thought it was a hernia.
Following the advice of doctors in Arizona, Martens saw an internist back in Omaha, who told him he was not dealing with a hernia.
Martens had three tumors around his chest.
A biopsy showed they were malignant melanoma.
“It’s tough,” Martens said. “All at once you wake up one morning and everything’s fine. In my case, I thought I had a hernia and it turned out to be malignant melanoma stage 4, and what a shock, because that’s a skin disease and I don’t have any cancerous skin at all. … But we’re fighting it one day at a time.”
Martens admitted he doesn’t get to golf as often as he’d like, but he’s in relatively good health and they believe his tumors are starting to shrink.
“I must be in good hands, because President Jimmy Carter had the same thing I do, and he’s in remission,” he said with a smile. “I’m sure he had it worse than I do, but I feel good.”
Martens had hoped to see his Warriors compete at the Yankton Invitational last week, but was unable to make the trip.
Though the four city schools also participated in that event, Tuesday’s second round of the City Meet provided a more appropriate stage for them to show their support for Martens. It was a family gathering, of sorts, with a number of the players he had watched grow over the years coming together to play 18 holes.
“It’s just heartwarming,” Martens said, pausing to recompose himself. “They’re all just a great bunch of kids.”
Follow Brian Haenchen on Twitter at @Brian_Haenchen.