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From a study hall bet to the Amateur

(June 9) The Navajos believe every action on this planet is connected, from the death of an ant to the construction of a giant dam.

Maybe that's true, maybe it isn't.

But hold onto that thought for a few minutes.

Some 30-plus years ago in Barboursville, W.Va., three high school boys were trying to make time pass in a study hall when they decided on a friendly little wager.

Each picked a horse for the upcoming Kentucky Derby. The winner would get a chocolate milk every school day for a month.

One of those boys, Earl, picked the horse that won the race.

Now for whatever reason, one of the other boys, Dave, didn't want to buy Earl that milk.

So Dave got to thinking.

And before long, Dave, who was a pretty fair golfer, realized he had an extra club he didn't need anymore.

So he came to Earl, who also happened to be his second cousin, with a proposal.

"I've got a golf club I'm not using," Dave said.

"How about taking that in trade?"

Now Dave eventually hurt his back. His golf swing, even with all those other, nice clubs, never would be the same.

But there still was the matter of that old club he gave to Earl. What became of it?

Well, for starters, it got Earl hooked on the game of golf.

And a little bit later, somebody else was coming into Earl's life: His little brother, Pat.

Earl took Pat to the course a lot, even when his brother was a tyke.

When Pat showed promise in his golfing game, Earl took Pat from one junior event to another.

And Earl also used the money he made as a fireman-oiler for the CSX railroad to pay for Pat's tournaments, a total that Pat estimates is in the thousands of dollars by now.

If you haven't guessed by now, Pat is Pat Carter, three-time defending champion of the West Virginia Amateur golf tournament, a 30-year-old who is making a run at state golf immortality.

And Earl Carter is the brother who always seems to be at Pat's side, the man who has been the champion's caddie for the past several years.

So what brings all this up right now?

Sadly, Dave Carter just the other day in Barboursville.

Earl plans to attend the funeral, even if it means missing a turn caddying for Pat.

After all, Dave was a great guy, Earl says.

And, "your family comes first. It's just a game."

So forgive Earl if he didn't get too caught up in the 72 his brother shot Monday for the first-round lead of this year's Amateur.

He was missing Dave.

"If he hadn't got us started, who knows what would have happened?" Earl said. "Later on, we might have gotten into golf, but there's a good chance we might not have."

And then someone else would have won the Amateur these past three years, not to mention 1989, the first time Pat won.

So going back to that Navajo belief -- is there something to it?

I've got a chocolate milk that says there is.