Sometimes in the darkest moments, it’s the small acts of kindness that stand out.
Yorktown golfer Evan Packard had come through what can only be called several of the most nightmarish days of his young life when his coach, Brian Hill, approached him on the driving range before Friday’s Central Regional. Only a few days earlier, Packard’s brother Derek died unexpectedly at age 18.
Evan Packard had been up late Thursday night talking to a detective and didn’t attend the team breakfast Friday morning. As he stood at the range, Hill came up and pinned a black ribbon to his hat, the same black ribbon the rest of the team’s players and coaches wore to honor Derek. And that small act took Evan Packard by surprise.
“I didn’t know about it,” he said. “It meant a lot because I didn’t know about it. They cared. They loved him, too.”
The hat Evan Packard was wearing had belonged to his brother.
At the end of the emotional afternoon at The Players Club, the Tigers found themselves short of the threshold for state, as did every other East Central Indiana team and individual. Hamilton Southeastern, Noblesville and Pendleton Heights emerged from a stacked field, all shooting 302 or better. Yorktown’s Alex Highley shot 77, but missed out on a playoff for individuals by a single stroke.
Evan Packard finished with 82. He said he played well most of the day before slipping a bit on the 17thhole. Two days earlier, he didn’t even know if he would make it to the course at all.
His brother died early Wednesday, and after making it to practice that day and the next, Evan Packard made the decision Thursday afternoon to play. He said at that point, he thought he’d be strong enough to go out.
“Derek was my biggest fan, and I knew he’d want me to be able to play,” said Evan Packard, son of former Ball State women’s basketball coach Kelly Packard.
As he made his way around the course on what he called the toughest day of golf he’d ever had, a gallery followed along to support him. It was family, his friends and some of his brother’s friends, a group he guessed grew as large as 30.
At points, their emotions broke through as well, a sign to Evan Packard of the impact his brother had. It also served as a reminder of how highly charged the situation still was.
“It was tough all week,” Hill said. “I was proud of Evan, the way he hung in there.
“I think he did his family proud.”
Like Evan, Derek Packard was also a golfer. He’d been on teams at Burris and Lapel and was part of Colorado Christian University’s team this spring. On Friday, Evan Packard used his brother’s driver and putter head covers along with the hat he chose to wear.
And throughout the day, opposing coaches and players kept coming up to Evan Packard. In a moment where just saying something often matters more than what’s said, they offered what they could: a pat on the back, a hug, a few whispered words of condolence. In short, small acts of kindness.
“It’s been comforting,” Evan Packard said. “Knowing that they care about me. Just words help, knowing that they feel for me.”