“The one thing that we didn’t want when he passed was for him to be remembered for the disease that took his life,” Ian Happ said. “We didn’t want him to be remembered just for brain cancer. We wanted him to be remembered for the impact that he had on so many people and so many individuals.” In Ian’s demeanor as they caught up last month, Zimmers saw plenty of his old friend Keith, who he’d known since the late ‘90s. They worked together on the 2003 U.S. Amateur, 2007 U.S. Open and, of course, the 2010 Women’s Open.
Keith Happ died in 2015, after an 18-month battle with brain cancer. Even just hearing the way Ian talks about his father, Keith’s influence is obvious. He passed down his love for golf, for one. He also inspired Ian’s commitment to mental health awareness. “It’s really cool to be able to share that with friends and teammates now,” Happ said, “and just the impact that he had on so many lives.”
In 2018, the Happs launched the Happ Family Charitable Fund to support mental health awareness and wellness through organizations like Bring Change to Mind and First Tee Greater Chicago. Now, 11 years later, Ian Happ was in town with the Cubs. He invited teammates Jake Arrieta and Zach Davies along to Toledo for a day of golf and Zimmer’s stories of the three championships he and Happ’s late father put on together.
“Those things to me are super special,” Ian Happ said, “because without a true impact and a really generous heart, it’s not worth it for that person to come up and say hello.” ‘We needed to share with everyone’ The golf course superintendents will find Ian when he’s on the putting green to chat. But for Happ, the times assistant superintendents seek him out serve as an even greater testament to the legacy his dad made.
When the Cubs’ schedule allows, Happ will carve out time to visit golf courses on the road, reaching out to superintendents who his dad worked with. As an agronomist, Keith Happ assisted and advised courses on their grass, especially in the Midwest region. “He’s very calm,” Zimmers said of Ian. “Doesn’t really overreact – whether he’s just having a conversation, or I’ve watched him playing baseball – and you can tell he controls his emotions very well. And his father did the same thing.”
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