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Remembering the better times

Through a scholarship in his name, Ian Morrill's parents want people to recall their son's love for golf, not the accident that took his life.

By KELLIE DIXON
Published February 22, 2007


INVERNESS - Ian Morrill died in April in a car crash, but his parents want you to remember more than just that about their son.

Donald and Betsy want you to remember the persistent kid who grew up working part-time at Winn-Dixie to help pay for his first clubs; the stubborn boy who refused to trash his beloved, but duct-taped squirrel club-head cover; and the bright-eyed, smiling dreamer whose lifelong goal was simply to stay involved with golf, whether that meant playing, teaching or running a golf shop. Prior to the accident, Morrill planned to play golf at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville. The 2004 Citrus graduate had just spent two years playing for Brevard Community College.

Morrill's passion for the sport inspired his parents to start a scholarship - the Ian Morrill Memorial Golf Scholarship - for Citrus High School students. It's a $500 award that is renewable as long as the recipient pursues a golf-related career or plays golf in college.

The first recipient was Robert Taylor, Ian's best friend who was riding shotgun the night of the crash. Taylor, who attended Brevard Community College with Morrill and now plays for Florida Gulf Coast, survived unharmed.

Taylor wrestles with the painful memory practically every day. It happened quickly on April 21 when Morrill made a mistake. He drove too fast in the gray Honda Civic he had completely rebuilt and lost control. A guardrail sliced through the driver's side and cut Morrill loose from his seatbelt. He died at the scene.

But past memories often melt sorrows into smiles.

Morrill grew up playing baseball, even collected cards. But the young Morrill lived for the game of golf.

"He knew the game of golf, and he knew the history of golf," Betsy Stoutmorrill said. "He had a million videos here. The only thing he would read voluntarily was golf stuff."

By age 8, he was becoming stiff competition for his dad. Of course, the young Ian was a little unorthodox in his approach. He enjoyed hitting his ball into the sandtrap or the kitty litter as he called it. He loved smacking a perfect chip through a flurry of sand.

"He just excelled once he started playing," Donald Morrill said. "He blew me out of the water."

The skinny, fun-loving kid spent many days walking the El Diablo Golf & Country Club with Taylor, his childhood friend. They were inseparable, killing time fishing, staging impromptu home run derbies or golfing.

Every day, it seemed, was April Fools Day for the mischievous duo, and that didn't stop when they got to college. Once, Ian and Robert played a prank on their third roommate. They took his bedroom door off its hinges, turned it around and re-bolted it. When the roommate went into his room, they locked him in.

"We didn't let him out for half an hour," Taylor said. "He was banging on the door. Finally we let him out."

Remembering the good memories are Taylor's way of keeping the bad ones further away.

"When I think about it, I try to think about the good things that we've done," Taylor said. "I just sit there and laugh sometimes about the things that we'd done."

To help him, Taylor has pictures all over his place. There is one of Ian and Bertina, the rescued dog the duo adopted. There's another of Ian and Robert flexing for the camera.

There is also a picture of Ian on Brevard coach Jamie Howell's desk. It is a reminder of a kid who worked hard to get stronger, often waking up early to lift weights or get in a practice round to better his game. The picture reminds Howell of what made Ian so memorable.

"Ian was willing to work hard to try and get better," Howell said. "If a young person were ever going to have a role model, Ian was being one without trying."

Kellie Dixon can be reached at kdixon@sptimes.com or 352 544-9480.

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Fast Facts:

The Ian Morrill Memorial Golf Scholarship

Who's eligible: Citrus High School seniors or graduates planning to pursue a career in golf or play golf at a postsecondary institution.

Amount: $500 renewable as long as the student continues to pursue a career related to golf or be on the team.

Deadline: March 30. The scholarship will be awarded in early May.

More information: Applications are available at the Citrus High School guidance counselor office.