PEELER: Revell's Inspiration Led Canadian Wave
BY TIM PEELER
RALEIGH, N.C. – Craig Revell never played a round of golf at NC State, but he's had a major impact on the fortunes of the Wolfpack men's program, both in recent seasons and for years to come.
Revell, as a freshman at Michigan State in 2003, won the first college tournament he ever played, the Badger Invitational at Wisconsin, fighting through some troubling and persistent back pain for a 3-stroke victory in the rain-shortened event. The family celebrated the win, especially Brad, who was was three years younger. He worshipped his older brother, following his footsteps in playing baseball and golf as they grew up in the small Ontario town of Kingston, about 100 miles east of Toronto.
Over Christmas, Craig Revell returned home to have an MRI in an effort to find the cause of his back trouble. Doctors found a large tumor resting on his spine, just over his right hip. Days later, Revell was driving three hours round trip to begin week-long chemotherapy treatments.
He would come home on the weekends to play golf with Brad, shooting some of the lowest scores of his life on at the Cataraqui Golf and Country Club.
"It was mind-boggling," Brad Revell said. "He was out there shooting 63s."
Brad was finishing up his final year at Frontenac Secondary School in Kingston. He didn't think he was ready for college yet, and he wanted to spend some time with his brother. The community where they lived embraced the Revells, collecting money to send the entire family on a private plane to Augusta, Ga., for the 2005 Masters, where they saw Tiger Woods win a thrilling one-hole play-off with Chris DiMarco.
Not long afterwards, Craig Revell had surgery to remove the grapefruit-sized tumor. In the process, the surgeon had to cut his sciatic nerve on his right side, paralyzing him from the waist down. Then, his cancer returned. He died on Sept. 24, 2005, surrounded by his family, at the age of 20.
"We were as close as all brothers are," said Brad Revell, who is a senior on the NC State men's golf team. "He was my role model growing up, a great guy to follow. His attitude when he got sick was unbelievable. He was a fighter and a grinder. He taught me to never give up, to keep fighting."
On every ball Brad plays in competition, he initials "CR" in honor of his brother. He uses a ball marker that reads "Always With You."
"Sometimes, it's hard to believe, even five years later," Revell said. "Sometimes it just hits me during the day that he's gone. But our family has a lot of faith. I know I will see him again someday."
Two weeks after Craig's death, Brad made his first visit to NC State's campus. He did it as a favor to Wolfpack head coach Richard Sykes, one of the few American college coaches who didn't forget about Brad Revell's talent and potential while he was out of school and spending time with his brother.
He immediately fell in love with the warm weather and the potential success of the program, so he decided to join the Wolfpack, becoming the first native of Canada in the golf program since 1975, when Bill Swartz was Sykes' first international recruit.
Revell was in the lineup for five tournaments as a freshman and in nine each his sophomore and junior seasons. Today, he begins the final spring with the Wolfpack, as he and his teammates play two rounds at the All-State Sugar Bowl Mardi Gras Invitational in Avondale, La. The tournament concludes with 18 holes on Tuesday.
Now, the Wolfpack roster is well-stocked with Canadian golfers, including 2009 NCAA Champion Matt Hill, who is coming of the most dominant season in the history of college golf. He won eight of his final nine events, including the ACC Championship, the NCAA Southeast Regional and the NCAA Championship, a feat matched only by Woods.
Sykes gives Revell credit for bringing Hill to NC State. The two players were friends during their junior days in Canada and they frequently were battling for the same trophies. The first time they ever played against each other, in the 2005 Ontario Tournament of Champions, Revell came back from two holes down with three to play, beating Hill in a play-off. Caddying for him that afternoon was older brother Craig.
Following that tournament, the Golf Association of Ontario named its trophy for the top junior player in the province the Craig Revell Award. Brad was the first winner in 2005. Revell and Hill shared the award in 2006 and Hill won it by himself in 2007.
Following in the footsteps of Revell and Hill, freshman Mitchell Sutton of London, Ontario, also came to NC State to play golf. Sutton finished last summer as the top-ranked Canadian junior golfer and won the Craig Revell Award in both 2008 and 2009.
Two more Ontario natives, Albin Choi of Toronto and Graham Bailargeon of Mississauga, will join the Wolfpack in the fall, Choi as a freshman and Bailargeon as a transfer from Michigan State. Choi was ranked second behind Sutton in the rankings of Canada's top juniors.
"Brad coming down here has turned out pretty well for us all," Hill said. "We are hoping this year turns out even better."
Revell hopes to make major contributions in his final collegiate season, joining Hill at the top of the leaderboards and taking the team further than it went last year. Sykes has no doubts that it can happen.
"Brad is a great player," said the veteran coach. "He works at it very hard. He is focused on winning and having a great year. I expect him to. He's worked hard. He doesn't have any shortcomings on the golf course.
"He's going to try to play professional golf. He has a lot of work to do, but there is no doubt in my mind that he can be successful. He has the desire and the motivation."
Besides, Sykes notes, he uses the same kind of extended putter used by both Tim Clark and Carl Pettersson, two former Wolfpack players now on the PGA Tour.
No matter how long he plays golf, Brad plans to continue honoring his late brother.
"I came here hoping to be successful, just like Craig was when he was able to play golf," Brad said. "He wanted me to play golf and go to school. I have definitely gotten better each year I have been here.
"I would love to play golf professionally on day, but I am just living one day at a time."
That was the final thing he learned from Craig, to cherish each day, each round and each season. That lesson, indeed, is "Always With You."
You may contact Tim Peeler at firstname.lastname@example.org.