Monday, Aug. 6, would have been Isaih Arraya’s 21st birthday.
In a perfect world, he would have celebrated that milestone among friends and family at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis on the first day of PGA Championship week. He would be volunteering on the maintenance crew, preparing the course for the best players in the world, working side by side with his father, Carlos, Bellerive’s director of grounds and agronomy, during his father’s proudest professional moment.
Sadly, though, this is not a perfect world.
Two years ago this month, Isaih was killed in an automobile accident in Florida, where he was already beginning his own journey in golf course management as a crew member at Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Resort Orlando.
But while he is not physically present at Bellerive this week, Isaih is definitely here in spirit, and he’s being remembered in some special ways in and around the grounds maintenance department.
On Sunday night, Stephen Tucker, the equipment manager at Tranquilo and a longtime friend of Carlos, made a special presentation during the orientation meeting for the 100-plus full-time staff and volunteers on hand for the PGA, unveiling custom-made red-and-black (Isaih’s favorite colors) wristbands with Isaih’s name on them that the crew and others will wear in his memory this week.
The gesture caught Carlos off guard.
“I don’t get too emotional, and that was emotional,” he says. “It’s one of those things that’s hard to explain to other people — the experience of others doing such a kind gesture for you and being so supportive during a really trying time. I know that a lot of other host superintendents of major tournaments experience support from family and friends. But I guess my story just happened to be unique because of that loss, and again, I’m just really appreciative of everything.”
Tucker, who has been at Bellerive all week assisting Carlos and Chris Rapp, the club’s equipment manager, says the wristbands were just a small way for him to honor both Isaih, whom he had gotten to know while Isaih worked at Tranquilo, and his friend Carlos. “(Isaih) was a great kid who had a great future in this business,” Tucker says. “He was a lot like his father, and we just thought it was the right thing to do, to make sure he was with us this week for the PGA.”
In a quiet moment Monday afternoon, Carlos said he had thought about Isaih often throughout the day. “You think about things you wish you’d done and the things that you’re not going to be able to do going forward,” he said. “And what today would have been like with him here.
“But at the same time, it’s about what I can do right now, and that’s to share the story and use the platform to try and get people to focus on more quality time in their lives and to try and grow as much personally as they do professionally.”
Scott Hollister is GCM’s editor-in-chief.