For some, the graduations were virtual. Other got their diplomas in drive-by ceremonies – a few even in drive-in theaters – as teachers and principals got creative in an attempt to honor the Class of 2020.
Nothing was normal after the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the United States in March.
Jim Furyk attended one of those socially distanced outdoor ceremonies with his wife Tabitha when their daughter Caleigh graduated from The Bolles School in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, in May. The guest list was limited to parents, with other family members watching on-line.
“It was nice to see the kids get an opportunity to walk, and I think they were anxious to kind of say hello to everyone,” Furyk says. “They hadn't really had a chance to see the class for a couple of months and went through their on-line schooling.
“It was a little awkward, I think, obviously a little bit of a bummer the way it ended.”
Caleigh, though, has a lot to look forward to – she is headed to Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she will compete on the track team. Helping his daughter, who is a talented pole vaulter, decide on a college brought back a lot of memories for Furyk, who turned 50 on May 12.
“I broke my thumb and I signed my letter of commitment to Arizona to play golf with a cast on my hand, so it was interesting,” recalls Furyk, who graduated from Manheim Township High School in 1988. “But going through the process of being recruited by University of Arizona was fun. It was also very time consuming and difficult. You're trying to figure out your next plan in life and trying to pick a college is always stressful.”
That said, Furyk remembers the excitement – and relief -- he felt after choosing Arizona over Arizona State, North Carolina and South Carolina. He liked the fact that coach Rick LaRose wasn’t looking to change his unique swing – plus, the weather in Tucson was a plus for a kid who grew up in western Pennsylvania.
“He gave us a little bit of rope, and for some students that isn't a good thing, but for me it was a really good thing,” Furyk says. “Being there with a different golf swing, being very self-motivated, and I worked very hard having that opportunity to kind of grow and flourish and not have someone tell me how to play. He let me kind of grow and learn at my own pace, which was good for me.”
Furyk said the COVID-19 crisis limited the time Caleigh could spend on campus at the various schools that she was considering. He and his wife and daughter had hoped to circle back to visit some of the colleges again, but with the nation’s shutdown that wasn’t possible.Jim Furyk graduated from Manheim Township High School in 1988. (Courtesy of the Furyk family)
“I think as a parent you want to provide some guidance and some insight, but ultimately, I wanted it to be, and my wife wanted it to be, her decision,” Furyk says. “I think we've always really tried to, and I've kind of got a little bit of this from my wife and probably got a little bit from what my parents did, but Tabitha's always wanted the kids to be able to make decisions and we've kind of treated them at times as they're older or more mature than they actually were.
“So, we just tried to provide some guidance and points and what was important, try to help her organize what's important to you.”
Caleigh is thinking about majoring in graphic design, but she is also interested in music. In that regard, Belmont has one of the best schools in the country, both from a creative standpoint and the business of music.
“Hopefully, she'll be able to combine a little bit of that love with the graphic design work as well,” Furyk says. “I think that it's a good opportunity for her to join the track team there as well and compete. So, it's something that she likes doing, and I think it's a good balance. Something she works really hard at and to be balanced for her.”
Furyk said Caleigh and her younger brother, Tanner, who recently completed his sophomore year at Bolles, have handled the coronavirus shutdown with maturity. Caleigh, who Furyk says hides her emotions like he does, was just getting back into form after an injury over the winter when track season was halted. Tanner’s lacrosse season was canceled, too.
“I think we all gathered where it was going very quickly,” Furyk says. “I think kids may have held out some hope along the way. And then, little by little, they kind of said, maybe this isn't going to work out.”
So, proms had to be canceled, and graduations reimagined. But Furyk thinks the members of the Class of 2020 will be stronger because of what happened, and he expects big things.
“The words that I keep hearing, whether it's from their school, whether it's from other parents, is that this class had to persevere through a little bit more than most and kind of have a little different finish to their school,” Furyk says.
“And so, they'll always be remembered for that, and I'm sure for the rest of their lives that'll keep some things in perspective for them and probably also give them the confidence that we all persevere through many aspects of their life.”