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Remembering a friend

Chris Daggitt remembers well his formative junior golf years.

Much of the time was spent playing with and against Adam Browne, first at Bear Creek Golf Course, then all over the state as they worked through the Oregon Golf Association schedule.

“His parents would take us one week, then my parents would take us,” says Daggitt.

Daggitt was a couple years older than Browne, who, at age 12, followed his brother, Chris, into the game.

“He was competitive,” says Daggitt. “He was a really good player, and I was probably a little better than him for a few years. He always wanted to beat me. It seemed like that was his main goal. It was a lot of fun growing up with him.”

Recollections of Browne are abundant as the inaugural Adam Browne Memorial Invitational tournament approaches next Saturday at Eagle Point Golf Club, where Daggitt is an assistant pro.

Browne starred in junior golf and at North Medford High, where he led the Black Tornado to third place at state in 2004. He later found success in the Southern Oregon Golf Championships before his jarring death Jan. 2, 2013, from a heart attack. He was 27.

The tournament, spearheaded by Daggitt and Jesse Taylor, another of Browne's golf buddies, will benefit junior golf.

The two-man best-ball has attracted about 100 players and is well ahead of expectations for a first-time event. Proceeds will go to a tournament free to high school boys and girls teams next spring at Eagle Point.

“I know that Adam would be extremely proud to know that this type of event was being put on in his honor,” says his mother, Roiann.

“Obviously,” says Adam's father, Kyle, “a golf tournament like this doesn't happen out of obligation. It happens out of the fact they loved him and wanted to respect his memory.”

Roiann and Kyle discovered Adam's body at his apartment 2½ years ago. When they couldn't reach him and there was no answer at his door, they let themselves in.

“He died of heart failure,” says Kyle. “The TV was on. It looked like he had made some soup for dinner.”

They don't know exactly when it happened, but the when and how matter little. Not so much, anyway, “as the fact that it happened,” says Kyle.

News of his death was a punch to the gut for so many.

Mark Wilson, also a North Medford teammate of Browne's and a victim of his friend's tenacity on the golf course, was among those floored.

“It was an unbelievable loss,” he says. “You never expect anything like that and never want to hear of anything like that happening to a kid our age. Never in your life should you feel a loss like that. It's not something you can prepare for. You get the narrative and it just knocks you off your feet.”

A reception was held at the Browne home. It was weird, for the Browne's basement had served as a man cave for Adam and his friends. It had a pool table, ping pong table, air hockey, TV, everything. But on that day, it seemed empty, and that feeling has endured for Roiann and Kyle.

Roiann doesn't think the grieving process “ever ends.”

Kyle says they've become “experts” on the subject.

“I actually think the second year is worse than the first,” he says. “After the initial shock, it is definitely worse. There are times of melancholy.”

This tournament may well provide a respite. The stories will be as frequent and tangential as golf shots on a crowded range.

Kyle remembers his son as a “smiler.”

Daggitt says he was a prankster, a jokester, loved making people laugh.

Kevin Klabunde, the North Medford coach for 22 years before stepping down in 2014, considers Browne one of his favorites.

Klabunde recalls seeing Browne and Mike Barry at Rogue Valley Country Club when they were still in middle school.

“I was salivating,” he says. “I thought Adam would be the better golfer. He had the more natural swing and could really pound the ball. I was just salivating for them to get to North so I could work with them.”

Daggitt was a senior in 2002 when Browne was a sophomore and Barry a freshman. Barry captured the Southern Oregon Conference championship, Browne was second and Daggitt third.

They had spirited matches in practice.

One time, Browne and Barry partnered and each stuffed their approach shots at No. 17 at RVCC to within about a foot of the hole. Daggitt, teamed with Klabunde, then holed out for eagle.

“I just went crazy,” says Daggitt. “I was giving them little jabs here and there. We were just playing for a Pepsi or something like that.”

Led by Browne's 150 score over two days, that team placed fifth at state.

The cache of championships Klabunde envisioned did not materialize.

In 2003, after the first of two rounds of district play, Barry had a seven-shot lead, Browne was among the other top individuals and North was in front in the team race. But afterward, Browne and Barry began a practice round on the same course they'd be playing on Day 2. It violated the rules and resulted in their disqualification.

Browne responded his senior year by winning the conference title with rounds of 73 and 75 at Roseburg Country Club.

At state, Browne placed 13th as a freshman and fourth as a sophomore. As a senior, he battled the elements to eighth place at Trysting Tree in Corvallis, shooting 146 to again pace the team, which placed third.

“I remember that day very well,” says Kyle Browne, “because it was freezing cold and raining. Adam's hands were blue and his lips were blue. He was a real determined kid.”

Among his other junior accomplishments, Browne won the state tournament of champions, twice was long-drive titlist and was a member of Oregon's victorious 2003 Junior America's Cup team.

After high school, he attended Oregon State for one year, then returned home, where he worked and played locally.

In three Southern Oregons, he twice went deep into the men's regular championship flight and, in 2011, won the men's first flight.

That was the year he overtook Wilson.

In their finals match, Wilson was 3 holes up with 4 to play, but Browne wouldn't relent. He leaned on his typically long driving and rock-solid chipping and putting to square the match, then defeated Wilson on the first playoff hole.

Those are the kinds of losses that send golfers into spins. Wilson was no different.

“Super frustrated,” he says.

That was then. Now, his perspective is different.

“Everything happens for a reason,” he says. “His victory at that time was meant to be. He was able to enjoy it with his friends and family. When I look back, I don't ever get mad about losing that match. I lost to a great friend, a great competitor and a great guy.”

Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or ttrower@mailtribune.com

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Adam Browne is second from the left in the bottom row in this 2002 North Medford team photo, when he was fourth and the team was fifth at state. Chris Daggitt is to his left. In the top row, coach Kevin Klabunde is far left, and Mike Barry third from the left. PHOTO FROM THE BROWNE FAMILY
Adam Browne was one of North Medford's top golfers, winning the Southern Oregon Conference championship in 2004 and leading the Black Tornado to third place at the state tournament. PHOTO FROM THE BROWNE FAMILY