Former San Marcos golfer back in action six years after brutal attack
As a golfer at San Marcos High, Thayer White was one of the best in the Channel League. He was the backbone of a Royals’ team for four years that enjoyed great success in and out of league play.
Almost 10 years later, Mr. White is a scratch golfer today.
He will take his game and competitive spirit into this weekend’s Santa Barbara City Golf Championship at Muni.
“I’m very excited. I really enjoy competing, and living back in Santa Barbara now, it’s really fun seeing people who I know in the golf community,” he said.
Mr. White will help make up one of the tournament’s largest championship-flight fields — one that consists of more than 90 players — when it all gets going today.
Not only is Mr. White lucky to be playing in the annual tournament, he’s lucky to be alive.
It was six years ago, on April 17, 2014, that he, along with another fraternity brother at Cal, were viciously attacked — hit over the head with a metal baseball bat by a man named Frank Paul Watson, who was later charged with attempted murder.
Mr. White, who according to witnesses, fell to the ground like “dead weight,” was left with a traumatic brain injury, one that landed him in the hospital for 10 weeks.
He has no memory of the actual event today.
“It’s interesting, because that actual event, I don’t have any personal memories, but I feel like I’ve seen it because of talking to so many people about it. I have a picture that I’ve painted in my mind about what happened,” Mr. White said.
“I view it as a blessing in disguise that I don’t have a personal memory of it. I actually don’t remember two weeks after the fact at the Intensive Care Unit. I have mixed emotions. I’ve seen the reports. I have close friends who will talk about it occasionally and it gets very emotional. It’s really interesting because I can see a picture of what happened and how it affected me.”
Mr. White had to regain his ability to speak, read and write. The injury was that severe.
“The nature of my injury affected my cognitive abilities,” he said. “It wasn’t that I had to learn reading and writing and speaking all over again, but all of those abilities were at different levels. My main issue was actually my speech. Reading and writing came back much quicker to me, but speaking, that was by far the most frustrating aspect of my recovery.
“I had to work with a speech therapist. I basically had tutors to help me. It was like going back to grade school. You have some ability to read and write in grade school, but to polish that and try to go back to a college level, that was a challenge. That was probably the biggest challenge I’ve ever had to face.”
The incident six years ago occurred at a party Mr. White’s fraternity was hosting. He along with several of his fraternity brothers were attempting to get rid of some unwanted guests, one’s who knew Mr. Watson.
When they got outside, Mr. Watson got out of his car with a bat.
“It just reminds you of how fragile life can be, but it also reminds you that you’ve got to bounce back,” Mr. White said. “Thankfully, I’ve had a normal life for quite a while now. I just have to attribute a lot of my recovery to my family and friends, who gave me a lot of support.
“It’s something that I worked on for a long time. Thankfully, if I meet new people, they would never really know what happened. Occasionally I’ll make a mistake because I’m speaking too quickly or I can’t find the perfect word to describe a situation, but I’ve got to remind myself that the English language is probably the toughest language,” Mr. White added with a chuckle.
Amazingly, he never lost his ability to play golf, although it was some time before he would tee it up again. The sport has been a huge part of Mr. White’s phenomenal comeback.
“Golf became a very therapeutic aspect of my recovery,” he said. “Thankfully, my motor skills from the injury came back much quicker than my cognitive ability. Just a couple of months after the event, I was able to go play.
“Golf is repetitive motion. It’s muscle memory, so golf was a perfect way to get away from this stuff. I go on the golf course with family and friends, it takes you away from a challenging time.”
Mr. White will cast himself back into a challenging time this weekend, when he goes up against some of the best players in the state and beyond.