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Golfers gain perspective from fallen soldier

Owens players keep cool in honor of sergeant’s sacrifice


Owens Community College golfer Brandon Hoelzer and the rest of the golf team have dedicated their season to Sgt. Maj. Joseph Ellis. Sergeant Ellis was killed in Iraq by a suicide bomber on Feb. 7, 2007.

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While Tim Dawkins was playing golf last year for Owens Community College he was known for slamming clubs on the ground and getting easily frustrated.

That has changed this year as his coach added perspective to what they do. Each member of the Owens golf team carries the photo and information of fallen soldier Sgt. Maj. Joseph Ellis of Ashland.

“Our coach asked us why we get so mad, it is not like we have bullets flying past our heads,” Owens golfer Brandon Hoelzer said. He is a sophomore from Fremont.

Mr. Dawkins, a sophomore from Big Rapids, Mich., said it has helped his temper on the course.

“Last year I was notorious for slamming my club down, I have not done it once this year,” he said. “It calms us down and helps our demeanor. We hit a bad shot, well it is not as big of a deal as people going to war and dying for our country.”

The Owens players and coach Josh Williams take Sergeant Ellis’ sacrifice extremely serious and personal.

Honoring and playing for him began when Mr. Hoelzer played in the Patriot All-American tournament last year. He was assigned to play in honor of Sergeant Ellis, and when he came back to play for Owens this year, his coach had talked to the Golf Coaches Association of America to see if Owens could continue playing for Sergeant Ellis.

More photos and cards containing information about Sergeant Ellis were made for the rest of the team. The team has rallied around the photos of Sergeant Ellis and each golfer touches the card together before each round.

Coach Williams did research on Sergeant Ellis and learned he was near the end of his final tour when a suicide bomber killed him on Feb. 7, 2007, in Iraq’s Anbar province, west of Baghdad.

“I have all the respect in the world for him,” Mr. Dawkins said.

Sergeant Ellis’ family was notified about Owens playing for him. They have not reached out to the team yet.

Owens won nine consecutive tournaments during this year and was ranked No. 1 in the NJCAA D-II polls. The team wants to win the program’s first ever national title next month.

“Doing that for Joseph would be a great way to end the season,” Mr. Hoelzer said.

Contact Matt Thompson at:, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.

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