Driving range named to honor Holcomb man

10/5/2013

By ANGIE HAFLICH

By ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

Tanner Born died too young, but thanks to his friends and family, his memory will live on for a very long time in Holcomb.

On Friday night, prior to Holcomb High School's homecoming game, a memorial wall was dedicated to Born, who died at the age of 19 from undetermined causes.

"Tanner was actually getting ready to start his PGA program to become a pro. Whether he continued to play or if he became a pro to run a golf course, he wanted to got to Arizona to do it," Janet Smaltz, Tanner's mom said.

Shortly after Tanner's death on Dec. 16, 2009, his good friend, Keith Leonard, got the idea to do a memorial wall for his buddy.

"My mom brought it up to me and I said, 'Heck yeah. That's an awesome idea,'" Keith Leonard said.

Smaltz said that since then, Keith and his mother, Kim Leonard, have been raising the money needed to build the wall, which was set up on the Holcomb driving range Friday night, awaiting its big reveal.

"Keith went to school with Tanner and he wanted to do this and this has been in the works since Tanner passed away. He really did a great job," Smaltz said. "His mother has really stepped in and helped, since Keith has been away."

Keith is currently attending Kansas State University in Salina, but the duo began raising money from community donations three years ago.

"We set up donation boxes throughout Holcomb," Keith said.

Keith and Kim placed red balloons and a blanket emblazoned with a photo of Tanner over the memorial wall, for the big reveal after Keith's dedication speech at 6:45 p.m. at the Holcomb High School football stadium.

"Tanner was a huge golfer. That's what he wanted to go do, to get his PGA certification. He probably practiced on this driving range more than anyone in the entire community, so I thought It was fitting that we name it after him," Keith said.

On hand for the reveal were Smaltz, her husband, Andy Smaltz, her mother, Sharon Fenton, and her sister, Deana Novack, along with members of the community and several of Tanner's other friends.

"He was just like a brother. I always went over there every weekend, everyday," Taylor Galliart, Holcomb, said. "We did everything in high school together. He was a really good guy."

Another friend of Tanner's, James Beasley, traveled from Oklahoma Panhandle State University to attend the dedication.

"He's the reason I got through my freshman year of high school. I lived in his closet my freshman year," Beasley said, laughing. "He was a good friend. He was the friend I needed. He put me in the right direction, that's for sure. He was the older brother I never had."

Some other buddies, Sam Marlin, Garrett Walter and Brock Walter, reminisced about golfing with Tanner, who worked at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course.

"We'd all go out there and play with and against each other and if someone wasn't playing well, we'd help each other out," Marlin said.

Garrett Walter said of the memorial wall, "Tanner's going to be smiling, that's for sure. Ear to ear."

During his speech, Keith said that Tanner, a 2009 graduate of Holcomb High School, was involved with cross country, bowling and his favorite sport, golf and that after high school, Tanner attended Garden City Community College.

"It's been three and a half years since Tanner left us. If you knew him in any way at all, then you probably feel the same when I say, there's not a day that goes by that he's not in our thoughts. It's hard to find words to describe just how great a person and friend Tanner was. He had a heart bigger than life and a presence that was felt by anyone he came in contact with. He loved his family, he loved people and he loved life. His smile was contagious and you couldn't help but smile back at him. Tanner was the kind of person anyone should strive to be. He a was a great inspiration and a true friend. Thank you Tanner for the great memories. You were gone too soon, but I know you're up there watching over us," Keith said. "Before the reveal, there are a few people I'd like to thank. My parents, Travis and Kim Leonard; and my brother, Tyler Novack; Matt Jones and USD 363; the Garden City Telegram; Rob McAllister; Mike Amos and Amos' Built Homes, for all his hard work; Kevin and Lynette Thomas; Robbie and Michelle Rose; Chris Smith for the golf silhouettes; Greg and Pam Bribiesca; Darrell Binns and Greg Springsteen for helping build the wall; Pappas Concrete; Klotz Sand; Pro Build and Sign Source and anyone who donated. Most of all, I'd like to thank Tanner's family. I am very pleased and honored to have your son remembered not only in our hearts, but now with this memorial wall."

At the conclusion of his speech, red balloons were released both from people in the stadium and the large group gathered near the memorial wall, which, once revealed, said, 'Tanner Dean Born Memorial Driving Range, In Everyone, There is Potential Greatness,' with two silhouettes of a golfer on either side.

"The silhouettes are made from an actual picture of him when he was in a golf tournament," Smaltz said, of her son.

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