Spartans supporting Samo

The Grundy Center girls golf program has had plenty of success under head coach Rick Schupbach. And the 12 state team championships speak for themselves.

But the latest accomplishment for the Spartan golf family goes way beyond the box score. It surpasses any birdie on the scorecard.

The way the Grundy Center golf family and the rest of the community have come together in support of one of their own has been truly remarkable.

“Grundy Center is an intimate environment, that’s what makes places like this special,” said Schupbach. “The support has been powerful and will do nothing but help the healing process.”

The Spartan that soon will be healing is Grundy Center senior Hillary Samo.

Not too long after Samo was claiming third place individually and helping the Spartans win their 12th state team championship at the Iowa High School Girls State Golf Tournament last spring, she was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

She went from being on the highest of highs after winning a state title, to having to fight through what has been and will continue to be one of the most trying times of her life.

“It was hard at first, and it was devastating to learn,” said Rhonda Samo, Hillary’s mother. “But Hillary is a very strong girl. She is strong in her faith and knows this one is up to God.”

The road to recovery for Samo won’t be easy. But the Grundy Center golf family is doing all it can this weekend to help with the process.

Hillary Samo enters the spring season as the Spartans No. 1 golfer. So there is no better way to help the Spartan senior push through what lies ahead than with a golf tournament – the Hillary Samo Benefit Golf Tournament to be specific.

The tournament, which filled up in a matter of days, will take place Sunday at the Town & Country Golf Club in Grundy Center.

Thirty-two teams are scheduled to take part in the nine-hole tournament. But every golfer swinging, chipping and putting Sunday will do so for the same cause.

“John and I were like everyone else in this small community and thought, ‘What can we do?'” said Carol Freeman, whose daughter Lindsay is one of Hillary’s best friends. “Since we are part of the golf family, a golf benefit just seemed like a great way to help.

“Our tournament filled up with a waiting list within days. We had some great people step up to work with us to plan this benefit. Wes and Sue (Meester) Beenken. Sue is a former member of the Lady Spartan golf team. Rob and Jocilyn Onnen. Jocilyn is a former member of Grundy Center golf team and now coaches the Spartans. Also coach Rick Schupbach, long time ladies Spartan coach.”

But the benefit golf tournament is only part of what the community has planned for Sunday.

The day also includes a “bags” tournament, a silent auction, a raffle and a pork loin dinner.

Two former Grundy Center golfers – Niel Doak and Grant Stevens – also will be in town to help make the par 5 ninth hole a little bit easier for the field.

Both Doak, a 1997 graduate, and Stevens, class of 2005, will be accepting $5 donations on the tee box. In turn, they will help teams better their scores by driving the ball down the fairway.

“The golf program is a close-knit family,” said Schupbach. “Former team members and current team members have really responded to this. It is gratifying to me to see so many past and present players want to help one of our own.

“Both Niel and Grant follow the golf program. They both know who Hillary is even though they graduated several years ago. Each one of them wanted to help, and they can drive the ball a mile.”

Samo is in the third of four cycles of chemotherapy. She has missed several days of school and has begun to experience the side effects that come with the treatment.

She also will be heavily involved with the Grundy Center Homecoming activities this week as she is one of the queen candidates.

But perhaps the most impressive thing about Hillary Samo’s fight is that she refuses to quit. She won’t give up and she knows eventually things will get better.

“She is a special young lady, a great student and is respectful to everyone,” Schupbach said. “She is always composed on the golf course and never lets things bother her. And now, to see her respond the way she has to this unfortunate news just speaks volumes about her family, her faith and her as an individual. There is nothing in her future that will be as hard as this.”

Schupbach would know. He battled through germ cell cancer himself. He had a tumor the size of a fist in his chest but has since recovered.

The Grundy Center coach now believes what happened to him was a blessing in disguise.

“The human body takes a beating during this fight, but it’s a blessing that I went through what I went through so now Hillary has someone she knows that she can relate with. We both will have gone through a similar fight.

“But there is no reason that after the radiation treatments that she won’t be fully healthy. We were told the tumor was shrinking, and she has one more stage of treatments to go before radiation starts. We want her senior year to be the best it can possibly be. We are all hoping for another great year with her teammates.”

The Samo family learned about the Hodgkin’s lymphoma in late July. Hillary went to the doctor for what the family thought was bronchitis. When she didn’t feel better after taking the prescribed medications, Hillary went back to the doctor to do chest X-rays for phenmonia. The X-ray was abnormal and the CT Scan a few days later revealed a large mass.

The family then headed to Iowa City on July 31 for more tests and that’s when Hillary was diagnosed.

“Hillary injured her shoulder during the golf season and got an X-ray on that in the middle of April,” Rhonda Samo said. “Nothing came up on that X-ray so this whole thing was pretty fast moving.

“We have been told there is a 90-plus percent chance that she’ll be cured and hopefully things will fall back to normal after the radiation.”

What’s normal is Hillary Samo on the golf course. And even if she’s not healthy enough to play a round Sunday, the fact that so many members of the Grundy Center golf family are showing their support is something the Samo family will never forget.

“Hopefully she’ll be up for playing,” Rhonda Samo said. “The support from the community has been awesome. There has been lots of help and many acts of kindness. It has been great.”

Coach Schupbach agrees.

“I think using golf as a way to raise money for Hillary is a great idea,” Schupbach said. “The Grundy Center golf program is about more than winning state championships. Our golf community is taking care of one of our own.”