Golf

N. Florida golfer dies in plane crash

GolfWeek Julie Williams
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TRAGIC SPORTS DEATHS

Remembering the many athletes sports lost way too soon.

North Florida women’s golfer Tess Huber was killed in a small-plane crash this past weekend in Jacksonville, Fla. Huber, 20, was traveling with her father Michael, 60, and younger sister Abigail, 17. All were confirmed dead by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board now are investigating the crash, which took place Sunday at about 6:20 p.m. In a press conference that evening (now posted on the Jacksonville Sheriff's Department website), public information officer Melissa Bujeda identified the plane as a Cessna 310. It crashed into a retention pond near a subdivision just east of I-295 in Jacksonville, and remained there as a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office dive team recovered the bodies of all three passengers.

Bujeda said the pilot had been unable to see the runway at Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport, and was told to fly around. The control tower was informed that the plane had lost altitude, and calls of the crash began coming in shortly after.

“We know it crashed into the retention pond, and we’re very fortunate it did not hit any homes because it could be a lot more fatalities than we are talking about right now,” Bujeda told media. She said visibility was at about three miles at the time of the crash.

The North Florida women’s golf team began competing as a varsity sport in the fall of 2012, and Huber was the Ospreys’ leading scorer this fall. She had two top-10 finishes, and her third-place finish at the season-ending JU Classic earned her Atlantic Sun Player of the Week honors. Huber became the first Osprey women’s golfer to earn the distinction.

News of Huber’s death filtered around the college golf community as North Florida’s inaugural golf fundraiser at Deerwood Country Club in Jacksonville went on. A picture of Huber, mid-swing, appeared Monday on the North Florida women’s golf Facebook page. The caption read, “Today is a sad day for the Osprey Golf Program. Our prayers and thoughts go out to the Huber Family. Tess will be deeply missed.”

Head women’s golf coach Joanne Steele remembered Huber in a statement released by the university.

“The tragic loss of Tess Huber affects our team in so many ways," Steele said in the statement. "Not only was she emerging as a leader of our young program on the course, but also her passion and commitment was becoming part of the foundation for the future. Our group is truly a family and today our team lost a sister and I lost a daughter."

Abigail Huber also was an accomplished golfer, and the sisters had played together at Lincoln Park Academy in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Abigail was a senior there. Michael was a dentist in the Port St. Lucie area whom family friend Milena Savich remembers as Tess and Abigail’s biggest supporter.

Savich is a former University of Georgia golfer who moved to Port St. Lucie to work on her game at the PGA Learning Center, and often practiced there with Tess. She met the Hubers almost exactly one year ago. Michael flagged her down in the parking lot one afternoon when he saw her Georgia headcover. He wanted to introduce his daughters to a top Division I golfer.

“I would have met them anyway, but he was just so in love with his kids’ passion for the game that he forced the introduction,” Savich remembered.

Savich exchanged phone numbers with Tess, and said the younger player often “would follow me around like a puppy.” Savich remembers Tess’ smile as infectious. Tess was mature and well-spoken, and shared Savich’s dream of making it big on the LPGA. When Savich won on the Suncoast Tour earlier this year, Tess sent a congratulatory text. They had plans to play when Tess came home for Christmas.

“We were just practice buddies,” Savich said, still in disbelief. “You can tell a lot about a person when you can see in their eyes and when they speak that they want to do a lot with their life.”

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