May 11, 2006: Late father's advice inspires Tonka golfer

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE
  • Updated: December 5, 2012 - 9:33 PM

Patrick Reusse wrote this column for the Star Tribune on May 11, 2006:

Donald Constable is a junior and the No. 1 player on the Minnetonka High School golf team. Last weekend, he was playing in his fourth tournament on the Future Collegians World Tour. The site was the Irish Course at Whistling Straits, the recent, already notorious golf destination near Kohler, Wis.

Constable and Kenny Wittenberg of Glen Ellyn, Ill., were playing in the final threesome in the Boys 16-18 Division on Sunday. They were tied for the lead on the 18th tee.

The par-5 18th was playing into the wind, so the tee was moved up 30 yards from its listed distance of 570. Constable hit the same "stinger driver" he used most of the day to keep his tee ball low in the wind.

"I hit it about 290," Constable said. "That should put you in go-for-it range, but the green is on a mountain. If you miss, you're going to be 40 to 60 yards down the hill."

Constable laid up to 140 yards, but then he overcooked his wedge shot and wound up in a very steep bunker.

"I walked up and there was no ball," he said. "If I couldn't find the ball, I would've had to take the stroke for a lost ball, go back and hit again. In other words, it was over."

Constable saw the opening for a drain pipe in this huge trap. "I stuck my arm in there, all the way to the shoulder, and pulled out a ball," he said. "It was mine, so I was able to take a drop in the bunker."

The dropped ball semi-plugged in the bunker. Constable left his sand shot in the rough above the bunker, then "nuked" a chip 10 to 12 feet past the cup.

And that's when he thought of the words his father, also Donald, had offered on so many greens: "Roll the rock."

Donald Jr. said: "When my dad said that, it meant you should make a good putt. But it's more than a saying to me. When I think, `Roll the rock,' the memory of my dad is so strong it feels like he's there with me."

Constable made the bogey putt. Wittenberg also made a bogey, creating a playoff. Donald's birdie on the third hole (No. 12) won the tournament.

His mother Tracy and sisters Rachael, Kate and Leigh were in attendance. There was a lot of emotion in this victory celebration, since it came nine days after Donald Sr.'s death.

He was 46 and died of cancer. He was in the brokerage business. He was once a nationally rated professional racquetball player. He turned to golf and became a 6-handicapper.

"My dad might have been a 6, but I've never seen a better putter, especially in the clutch," Constable said. "I haven't inherited that skill, but I did putt well Sunday ... 26 putts. I definitely had something I've never had before."

His father's voice. Roll the rock. That's what Constable felt as though he had all the way around the Irish Course with his comeback victory.

He had started with a 77 in the wind and cold Saturday. His even-par 72 on Sunday tied the competitive course record and got him to that winning playoff.

Constable's admiration for his father has been reinforced when playing in FCWA tournaments.
"The driving range is filled with fathers standing there, trying to coach their sons, critiquing every swing," he said. "My dad never tried to be my coach. He left that to Jeff."

Jeff Kringen is the golf pro and an instructor at Spring Hill Golf Club. Donald Sr. was an original Spring Hill member. The Constables won the Father-Son tournament at the club when Donald Jr. was 14. They didn't play the next year, since it conflicted with a family event: Rachael's high school graduation.

"And then my dad got sick," Constable said.

The cancer started in his lungs, even though Donald Sr. had never smoked a cigarette. He was diagnosed 14 months before his death on April 28.

"We're doing OK," his widow, Tracy, said Wednesday. "We have a very strong faith. That's what is holding us up.

"I think that's why Donald was so calm under pressure Sunday. He wanted to win for his dad, but he said, `If it's God's will, it will happen.'"
 
It happened, with an occasional whisper reminding Donald to roll the rock.

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