Memorial golf tournament provides college scholarships

by Sonja J. Keith

Luke Baker’s family and friends remembered him as the “ultimate teammate” with a fundraising tournament for a sport he loved – golf.

Luke, 20, died Oct. 24, 2015.

Proceeds from the James Luke Baker Memorial Golf Tournament, which was organized by the Luke Baker Foundation and the Conway High School golf team, will be used to provide college scholarships to Conway High School golf players.

“He was the ultimate teammate,” CHS Golf Coach Janet Taylor said of Luke, adding that he was positive, encouraging and fun-loving. She said he never made it to the varsity squad but still was a crucial member of the golf team. “He loved life to the fullest, every day. That was his legacy.”

In presenting the scholarships, Janet reminded the recipients that they should characterize the qualities that Luke possessed. She said Luke put the team first, before himself, and was encouraging to his teammates. “He was so proud to be a team member.”

At a recent gathering at Centennial Valley Country Club, $500 scholarships were presented to:

2013-14 class – Lincoln Hill, Kyler Sanson and Josh Walker.
2014-15 class – Dylan Smith.
2015-16 class – Clay Bradshaw.
2016-17 class – Whitney Hill.

Plans are to present $500 to each recipient through their senior year in college. This year, three members from Luke’s senior year were selected for the award, with plans to select one player from each year following.

The tournament attracted 20 four-person teams, many who are Conway High alums. About 60 members of the Baker Family also attended. “The first one was very successful. We were very pleased with the turnout, volunteers and the support we received,” Janet said. “I was happy for Luke that so many wanted to come out and remember him. It was fitting that alumni were the tournament champions.”

Conway High alums Carson Roberts, Summar Roachell and Chase Netherton along with Mitchell Ford made up the winning team.

On tournament day, a special plaque was unveiled to officially name the 13th hole at the Centennial Valley Country Club in memory of Luke. Janet explained it was Baker’s favorite hole and when he had an opportunity to play, he would start on No 13 near his home. “He played that hole more than any,” she said.

“Shortly after the death of my son, I was talking with Hal Crafton. We thought it would be a great idea to have a hole at Centennial Valley Country Club dedicated in memory of Luke,” said Kerry Baker. “A few months later, I got a call from Coach Janet Taylor, his golf coach through high school. She said Luke had been weighing heavy on her mind and was wondering if we would be in favor of a scholarship in his name.”

Kerry expressed his appreciation to all involved in the tournament. “We were very thankful for the help from Hal Crafton, Centennial Valley Country Club, Coach Taylor and Coach (Craig) Conner, Kirk Netherton, all the sponsors, family and friends,” he said. “Luke loved the game of golf as he did with just about any sport. He loved life and never met a stranger. He always had a smile on his face and always wanted everyone to enjoy life.”

Plans are already in the works for next year’s tournament, scheduled Monday, July 23.

Describing it as a bittersweet day, Janet said it was difficult to lose someone like Luke but the organizers were happy to honor him with the tournament. She said the goal was to make something positive out of something tragic. “It was a great day to celebrate Luke’s life.”