Saturday, July 20, 2013

Halsema, Carlson upstage leaders with twin aces at women's city golf championship

Published in the Lafayette Journal & Courier Sunday, July 13, 2013

By Clyde Hughes for the Journal & Courier

BATTLE GROUND — Lafayette Jeff junior golfers Lauren Halsema and Abigail Carlson would have had better odds winning the Hoosier Lotto, getting a royal flush with their first five cards in poker, or spotting a UFO than what they pulled off Saturday afternoon at the Greater Lafayette City Women’s Golf Tournament.

Halsema and Carlson, members of the same group, each made a hole-in-one on the 119-yard par-3 fourth hole at the Battle Ground Golf Course. While the champions of the past two seasons, Cyndi Lohmoeller and Ashley Wright, took a big lead after the first day, almost everyone talked about the near back-to-back holes-in-one.

Lohmoeller, the 2011 city champion, shot an even-par 72 in the first round, two shots ahead of defending champion Wright. Wright’s 74 was five shots better than the next two golfers, former McCutcheon star Bethany Hainje, who now plays at St. Joseph’s College, and Lafayette Jeff senior golfer Lindsey Burklow.

Jeff’s all-state golfer, Samantha Hatter, had a tournament-low 24 putts and finished with an 80.
But it was her high school teammates, Halsema and Carlson, who caught everyone’s attention with their feat. A 2000 Golf Digest study calculated the odds of two members of the same grouping making a hole-in-one at the same hole at 17 million to one.

Halsema said her ball landed on the front portion of the hole, but the momentum of the shot kept it rolling toward the pin.

“I thought I hit it a little under, but it kept rolling and it went in,” said Halsema, still excited about the shot after playing 18 holes. “It was crazy. I felt amazing. I was just stunned for the next two holes. I was like, ‘did I really do that?’ ”

After Gretchen King hit her tee shot, Carlson said she saw her ball land 10 feet away from the hole and turned her back to grab her clubs.

“We were thinking, ‘How in the world are supposed to match up to (Halsema’s shot)?’ ” Carlson said. “I hit my shot and I didn’t think I made it there. I turned back around and asked, ‘Where did my ball go?’ They said it went in. I said, ‘No way.’ I didn’t believe them.”

Carlson said she thought her fellow golfers were pulling her leg until she walked up to the hole and saw her ball in the cup.

“We told our coach, but didn’t know if anyone else knew,” Carlson said.

It was the first hole-in-one for both golfers. Carlson finished with a round of 86, just one shot from making the championship flight. Halsema ended with a round of 119.

Lohmoeller and Wright were paired in the first group to tee off Saturday, establishing the standard for the other golfers early. Lohmoeller said her job at the Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex at Purdue came in handy as the day went on.

“I really want to thank Dave Ross for hiring me,” Lohmoeller said with a laugh. “Playing there, seeing how those younger golfers play and the professionalism they show, it may be wearing off on me a little bit. I was able to save No. 18 and not have a blow-up hole.”

Wright, just weeks past gall bladder surgery, said she was surprised by how well she played, but credited her husband and competing with Lohmoeller and Maggie Boaz as inspiration.

“It was a fun, inspiring group to play with,” Wright said. “My husband was my caddy, and he kept me going. I was getting tired at the end, but he was the one who kept telling me that I was doing great and I could do it.”

Hainje said she was more familiar with Coyote Crossing Golf Course, where the final round will be played Sunday.

“It’s going to be a whole new 18 holes tomorrow,” Hainje said. “Coyote Crossing is a course I’m somewhat comfortable with. I will forget about this round, even though it’s one I’m happy with.”

Guest column: What you'll do if you care for Trayvon Martin

Published Saturday, July 20, 2013 in Lafayette Journal & Courier

By Clyde Hughes

I will be right up front. I was profoundly disappointed when a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of second degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Trayvon Martin last week.

It would be all too easy to endlessly relitigate the case. I found the result stunning, but hardly unexpected.

The challenge for everyone, regardless how you feel about the verdict, is: Where do we go from here?

The truth of the matter is that Zimmerman’s fate was decided in the Florida legislature long before he fired that shot into Martin’s chest, because “stand your ground” laws protected him. Doesn’t anyone find it strange that even though the defense did not claim the law, it still was mentioned in deliberations, according to one juror?

In fact, Zimmerman’s fate was decided during jury selection, with a group that could not connect with a witness such as Rachel Jeantel, Martin’s friend, even though her testimony was critical — vital, actually — in the prosecution’s case.

People are angry over the verdict. I saw a graphic on CNN Tuesday that listed 100 Trayvon Martin rallies scheduled that day alone. “Stand your ground” laws are flawed pieces of legislation that give a person with a weapon the ultimate power against anyone they deem as threatening to them. The law, though, misses the most basic question — when is a person reasonably in fear of their life?

Feeling in fear of your life is such a subjective phrase that it seems incredible that it ended up in serious legislation from which the guilt or innocence of a person can be determined. But six jurors in the George Zimmerman trial were left with that ambiguous determination.

In the end, with the absence of a way to define reasonable fear of life, the six jurors gave Zimmerman the benefit of the doubt and allowed him to walk free. This happened even with no evidence introduced beyond Zimmerman’s own words that Martin started the fight. Nothing.

But if all of these rallies, protests and boycotts do nothing to dismantle, or at the very least dramatically improve, such laws, all these calls for justice for Martin will end up falling empty, flat and hollow.

Don’t get me wrong. There is plenty to be angry about. Even Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara concedes that the justice system is skewered against most African-American males and deserves a serious national conversation. Why can’t this be that time?

Why can’t these 100 rallies focus on fundamentally cleaning up “stand your ground” laws by not allowing people who pursue a suspect and then use self-defense as a claim? Why not change jury selections that would allow change of venues on either social or class grounds to ensure an actual and true jury of peers?

Radical, you may think. I find it radical that a teenager coming home with candy and a drink can be profiled, confronted and killed before he reached his front door, and the person who pulled the trigger walks away without even a parking ticket.

But if all the energy and angst over the Zimmerman verdict does not turn into conversation and action, the next Trayvon Martin shooting will happen sooner than you think, and everyone will be back in the same position.

It is important to engage law enforcement, engage public officials and engage community leaders today and without delay. If you think “stand your ground” laws have nothing to do with politics, you are foolishly wrong.

If you really care about Trayvon Martin, you will not miss the next time you have a chance to cast a vote. You will not miss the next time to become involved when such laws are up for consideration in localities and state legislatures.

The bottom line is if you really care about the verdict in this case, your actions will not end with a rally, but begin with taking action to bring about change.

Hughes is a member of the Greater Lafayette Commerce’s Diversity Roundtable.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Guest column: Suddenly, Trayvon Martin's friend is put on trial

Published in Lafayette Journal & Courier, Wednesday, July 3, 2013

By Clyde Hughes

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I realize that George Zimmerman is on trial for the death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin this week, but I would like to give a defense to the last person besides Zimmerman to hear Martin’s voice — his teenage friend, Rachel Jeantel.
I did not realize Jeantel would need defending until I saw and heard mainstream and social media accounts of her testimony last week. Jeantel, described as a friend or girlfriend of Martin, was on the phone with him when Zimmerman confronted the teen last year.

A fight ensued and Zimmerman pulled out a weapon, shot and killed Martin. Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense is at stake with Jeantel’s testimony. She claimed Martin tried to run and hide from Zimmerman but the neighborhood watch volunteer pursued him, leading to the confrontation. That would seriously undercut Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense.

Don West, a defense attorney in Florida, did pretty much what we would expect defense attorneys to do — pull every trick out of his hat to make a star witness look bad so he can save his client’s life. Facing off against a reluctant teenager with few skills to handle an aggressive (and at times demeaning) interrogation, it is of little surprise that Jeantel would lash out the way she did during the first day of testimony.

My guess is West hoped for as much to make his job of discrediting her in front of the jury easier. He was dealing with a scared teenager who knew while taking the stand that she would have to account for a couple of fibs she told unrelated to her conversation with Martin and knew she would be on the hot seat.

What surprised me was the unrelenting criticism from the Fourth Estate and social media of Jeantel, which came across much of the time as elitist, disconnected and completely out of the touch with the challenges Jeantel faced on the stand beyond simply answering attorneys’ questions.

CNN’s Jake Tapper opened his June 27 show, “The Lead,” with this statement describing Jeantel’s testimony: “Have you ever seen a witness make, ‘Yes, sir,’ sound so much like, ‘Go to hell?’ ” That’s when I knew many of my fellow journalists were off the mark and maybe even lacked the ability to understand Jeantel’s struggles.

There is a culture gap in this country — a canyon-wide, in some instances. And it was put on brutal display during Jeantel’s two-day cross examination by West. I continued to watch Tapper, to see if he would address the world of Jeantel — inner-city Miami, tough streets, rough language and a real fear for authority figures — compared to West, who demanded that she respond like a Harvard-educated scholar.

I got nothing. Not even an attempt to explain why Jeantel had her defenses up the second she took the witness stand. Tapper didn’t even try. He let his “yes, sir, sounds like go to hell” statement stand without explanation. But in his defense, many journalists and experts failed miserably as well.

Now, there was plenty to dissect in Jeantel’s testimony, from the fibs she told about attending Martin’s funeral to her exclusion of Martin screaming, “Get off me,” in previous statements before the trial. Yet, failing to call out West for his outright attempt to embarrass Jeantel by getting her to read a letter written in cursive when he knew she couldn’t read it was yet another low point for the media.

This does not include what amounts to vicious attacks on Jeantel by “social media goons” who compared her with pictures of Jabba the Hut from “Star Wars,” and worse. Longtime African-American journalist and creator of Sherri Williams called Jeantel’s treatment “a social media stoning.”

“She was called fat, ignorant, sassy, ugly and manly,” Williams said. “Jeantel was called everything except what she is, a witness in one of the most significant criminal trials in recent history — a young woman who heard her friend fight for his life.”

How could we expect anyone from Jeantel’s world to trust anyone from your world, my world? How could we expect them to reach out to us in a time of need? How can we expect them to seek us out in a time when justice needs them to?

There were good and bad things you can say about Jeantel’s testimony. At times it was powerful and riveting. At other times, it was clumsy and inconsistent. It’s pretty much what I would have expected out of a nervous teenager in the foreign environment of a courtroom in a high-stakes, nationally televised murder trial. Too bad we were too busy criticizing her looks, voice volume and attitude to notice.