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By being himself, Hazel Brown made people feel special

It was a beautiful day, ideal for golf. White clouds moved across the blue sky like sailing ships. A nice breeze, no more than a one-club wind, tousled the leaves lining the fairway.

It was the kind of day Hazel Brown would have loved.

Out on the first fairway at Carolina Golf Club on Monday, some 30 of his relatives, from his wife Annie Mae to his brood of great grandchildren, watched as Hazel's ashes were spread across the golf course he had loved and served as a caddy, keeper of the club room, shoe shiner, confidante, friend. In later years, he was also a member, his membership a gift from the club.

Or, as one member said, "Hazel was and always will be the spirit of this club."

About 200 people gathered at Carolina Golf Club Monday to pay tribute to Brown. They lunched on Brown's favorites -- fried pork chops with apple sauce, barbecued chicken, macaroni and cheese, sweet corn casserole and Snickers.

They talked about their encounters with him. I mentioned that Hazel caddied for me many times and I never asked for a club, he just handed me the one he thought I should hit. Delores Grogan, a member, said, "He was known for that. He could watch two swings and know how to club you. And God help you if you didn't take the club he handed you."

They talked about how good he was with young people, how children would say they wanted to go to the club to see Mr. Brown and how he would scrounge up some golf balls and sawed-off clubs and tell them to go have a good time.

One little girl told her dad she wanted to go to the club so Mr. Brown could see her new dress.

Sutt Alexander, whose family built Carolina Golf Club, said, "Hazel had a way of making you feel special."

Hazel took his caddying skills out onto the PGA Tour for awhile and once came close to bringing in a winner, Bert Yancey, at the Masters. But he eventually wearied of the travel and came back home, to Carolina.

People are honored for winning tournaments or selling the most houses or devoting years to public life, for many things, but rarely do you see someone honored for being themselves.

The City Amateur Championship was dedicated to him this year.

And then Monday, at Carolina Golf Club, Hazel Brown was honored for being Hazel Brown. That's a tribute of the highest order.