Henlopen Conference loses longtime golf coach

Steve Vansant is shown during one of his many golf outings. BY JOHN EUSTIS
May 16, 2011

The Henlopen Conference lost one of its longest-serving golf coaches May 8, when Steve Vansant passed away at the Delaware Hospice Center in Milford.

Vansant, 61, finally succumbed to the effects of a heart attack he suffered last August, a week before he was to travel south to play in his first World Amateur tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C. A math teacher at Lake Forest, the 1975 University of Delaware graduate started the original golf team for Lake Forest High School more than 20 years ago. He enjoyed his last season of coaching for the Spartans in spring 2010.

An extremely avid and talented golfer, Vansant spent most of last summer playing nearly every day at Shawnee Country Club, his home course. He also served on the club’s board of directors.

Gardner Shugart, a former president of the club, said, “Steve really, really loved this game. His legs bothered him last summer, and he walked with a cane. He would use the cane until it was time to hit, put the cane down, swing his club, and pick up his cane again. A great guy.”

Vansant’s frequent playing partner, Mike Kavanaugh, fondly recalled Vansant’s keen love for golf, especially when there was a dollar or two riding on the results. “Steve always handled the betting,” Kavanaugh said.  “He would have all these complicated bets going on, and no one else could figure out his scorecard with all he was tracking on it. He’d come into the clubhouse and start pointing at people after the round, saying, 'You owe $6.75, you owe a quarter,' and so on.”

He continued, “He just loved playing the game. This past summer I think we played five days straight, then seven days straight, then 10 days straight.”
John Eustis, one of Vansant’s best friends, simply said of his passing, “Thousands of miles and thousands of rounds…”

I knew Steve as the Lake Forest golf coach, as well as a fellow member at Shawnee. He was unfailingly pleasant company. As a high school golf coach, he often expressed a nicely realistic assessment of the kids on his teams, as well as their competition. The Lake Forest golf teams rarely challenged the Cape Henlopen squads, but it was not for lack of effort, for which Vansant deserved a lot of the credit.

At the time he was stricken, Vansant had only just begun his official retirement from his decades of teaching and coaching at Lake Forest. His passing reminds us once again of the need to seize the moments we may enjoy here on Earth, because we can never know when those moments will cease.

Local club results

Last week’s column included a segment about the May 1 inaugural Ladies Day tournament at Kings Creek Country Club.

Due to a communications glitch, I failed to note that the third-place honors for this tournament went to Bernie Reid, Francie Young, and Kathy Nave. A blind draw’s score was added to the trio’s scores.

No penalty for this kind of help
Rule 8-1 of the official Rules of Golf prohibits the giving of advice to one’s competitors during a round of golf, while also permitting some kinds of assistance to one’s playing partner.

For other kinds of help, however, it doesn’t matter who’s being helped, as discussed in a recent Ruling of the Day at the USGA’s website.

In this situation, a golfer finds another player’s golf club while out on the course. He picks it up and puts it in his own bag, already filled with his own 14 clubs. Intending to return the club to its rightful owner, he turns the club in to the pro shop, never having used it during the round.

As the USGA held, there’s no penalty for being a mensch, at least under these circumstances.

To my way of thinking, you have to wonder at the moral makeup of anyone who would suggest otherwise.