Competitors' support makes difference to McArtors

Cancer survivor, Durant coach Ahrens a special friend, fellow coach

Contributed photo

Tracy and Marge McArtor wearing the shirts given to them by fellow River Valley Conference golf coaches.
Contributed photo Tracy and Marge McArtor wearing the shirts given to them by fellow River Valley Conference golf coaches.

When it comes to feeling support, there is nothing better than when that support comes from competitors.

Mid-Prairie girls golf coach Tracy McArtor felt buoyed by just that feeling when his wife, Marge, was diagnosed with cancer and fellow coaches banded together to offer their help in any and all ways possible.

When the news of Marge McArtor’s situation spread in January of this year, coaches from across the River Valley Conference stepped up in a big way to offer support.

When the spring golf season was canceled, the support actually became more important.

“When Marge was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, there were a ton of unknowns as to what lies ahead for us: more doctor visits, tests, treatments and potentially just some not very good days,” Tracy said.

The cancellation of the golf season brought relief and heartbreak to Coach McArtor.

“When the COVID-19 issues came up and we knew that the golf season was to be canceled, I was relieved that I would not have to rely on others to help me thru the season, but felt horrible for my kids and especially my seniors,” Tracy McArtor said. “This group of coaches, even with season canceled still took the time to check in and see if we needed anything.”

Despite the season being canceled, the coaches still kept in touch and were aware of the deleted schedule.

“Around the time of our home Hawk Invitational, I received a package from Durant coach Denise Ahrens, a cancer survivor herself, with a picture of herself, Jan O’Neil from West Branch, Jaime Meyer from Wilton, James Laughlin from West Liberty and Heath Hesse from Tipton wearing shirts that they had planned to wear to our home meet that read “No One Fights Alone” and the slogan “Fighting FORE you.”

Included in the package were shirts for Tracy and Marge.

“That gesture meant the world to us and reaffirmed that I don’t get to spend my spring golf season coaching against rivals, I get to spend my spring golf season with some of my best friends,” Tracy McArtor said.

The southern tier of the River Valley Conference of girls golf coaches (Mid-Prairie, Durant, Wilton, West Branch, West Liberty, Tipton in this case) already shared a special connection.

“We have all been a pretty close-knit group for a number of years now,” Tracy McArtor said. “Some of us have been competing against each other since the old Eastern Iowa Hawkeye Conference days.”

What started out as competing coaches over the years has transpired into personal friendships.

“I think we all have the same perspective when it comes to our coaching philosophies,” Tracy McArtor said. “We want our kids to be successful and do well, but we also want our opposing teams to be successful and do well.”

There is more to teaching and coaching than the result on the course.

“Winning and losing is not the end all, but having fun, getting better, making friends and enjoying the day are ultimately what matters,” Tracy McArtor said.

Besides the team they are in charge of on the course, the coaches team up to help each other with rules, logistics and scheduling.

“We coaches also work together as our own team to help each other when it comes to making sure our meets are run well,” Tracy McArtor said. “That is especially true with the bigger invitationals we host and the conference meet when one of us is scheduled to host.”

Coaches are in charge of most everything when hosting a tournament.

“You need to work with the golf course on accommodations, carts for coaches, spectators, food, etc.,” Tracy McArtor said. “Then we need to get team rosters from each school and score averages for each player to set up pairings for the day. We have to make out score cards, score sheets, getting everything loaded into a spreadsheet. The day of the meet is spent getting all this in line, putting together a rules committee of coaches and then scoring as the kids come in. This group has learned to work together to make all this happen so we can all have time to check on our kids throughout the day and keep the event running smoothly.”

Since golf season was canceled, these coaches have offered up any other help the McArtors may need, but mostly spiritual and moral support.

One coach in particular had a special connection to the McArtors. Marge McArtor got to know Ahrens thru volleyball. For the past number of years, Marge McArtor has done the volleyball score book for all the Mid-Prairie home games and Ahrens is the volleyball coach at Durant.

“I met Marge four or five years ago when I brought the Durant volleyball team to Mid-Prairie,” Ahrens said. “She gave me a plate of cookies for the team and gifts for me to deliver to Joel Diederichs, our high school principal who used to work with her. She would always treat all teams from Durant that would travel to Mid-Prairie with a plate of cookies.”

Ahrens has been cancer free for 15 years.

“My cancer story: It was a few months before my 40th birthday that I found a lump in my left breast,” Ahrens said. “I did go through both chemo and radiation.”

It was classified as late stage 2, early stage 3.

“I remember all the help and support I received from family and friends and that is what gets you through the tough times,” Ahrens said. “Some of the things I most treasured during that time is the friend who took me to my chemo treatments, the friends who decorated my chemo chair on my 40th birthday and for Bennett School, where I was teaching at the time, made a whole theme for the Variety Show around my 40th birthday.”

The help of others left a lasting impression on Ahrens and heightens her compassion for the McArtors.

“So I want to help them have some good memories during the tough time they are going through,” Ahrens said. “Marge is a very giving person. When I heard that she was diagnosed with lung cancer, I knew I wanted to support her and Tracy in any way I could. I got to now Tracy through coaching golf. He is very helpful and wants all golfers and coaches to excel at golf.”

Tracy McArtor is more than happy to give of his time and share his knowledge.

“For the last three or four years, he has put on a golf clinic open to all golfers throughout the conference,” Ahrens said. “Both Marge and Tracy are great people and would have done the same and maybe more if anyone else was in the same boat. I just know I had to do something and am glad it brought a bit of happiness to them.”

“We’ve been blessed with such a large support group from our friends and family, our church family, our local community, our co-workers and golf family at Kalona Golf Course where we are members,” Tracy McArtor said. “But to have the extra support, encouragement and love from my fellow coaches in the conference as well was overwhelming.” The McArtors attend Sharon Center United Methodist Church.

“Marge is responding well to treatments that she is three months into,” Tracy McArtor said. “She continues to work from home as a Special Ed Teacher at Highland CSD.”