Central High School

CHAMPAIGN — A junior high school runner once asked Mike Osterbur to pledge money for every lap she completed during a walk-a-thon fundraiser.

The Champaign Central boys’ golf coach pledged a quarter for every circuit she completed around Unity’s track, thinking she’d walk for an hour or so.

Instead, as he recalls, she must’ve walked through the night. Osterbur’s final total was in the neighborhood of $170.

“Two weeks later there was another ring on the door and she kind of sheepishly said, you know, I can’t remember what I owe, it was like $170 or something,” Osterbur said. “Well, I wasn’t going to look like a chump and not pay it.

“So I gladly donated it, but then I got to thinking just in case we have a really good season, I don’t want people to have to dip into their 401K or anything to try to pay this off.”

When Osterbur and the Maroons launched a fundraiser for colorectal cancer research last fall, donors had the option to chip in $1 for every birdie a Central golfer dropped in a stroke-play match. Recognizing the team’s potential to sink lots of birdies — the Maroons made 127 in total — there was also an option to donate at a flat rate as well.

”We had probably somewhere around 80 pledges and I’m guessing probably, oh, maybe half of those were flat $50 pledges,” Osterbur said. “We had some who pledged a dollar for every birdie and then there were some who pledged above and beyond that.”

Mission accomplished. For their notable efforts, the Maroons will present a check for $8,034 to Carle Health Center for Philanthropy on Wednesday morning.

Former Maroons golfer Sam Watts’ father, Ben Watts, and longtime area golf presence James Thompson’s battles with colorectal cancer were key in the conceptualization of the fundraiser.

“It’s great and it’s all due to these young men who have done a great job,” Ben’s widow, Judy Argentieri, said Tuesday.

“I love the program here, I love the type of men that are in the program, I love the coaching here and it’s really, I think it’s a great experience for you both as an athlete, but as a human being and as young men.”

Osterbur would have liked to get the ball rolling on the program sooner, but the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 season and shifted the focus of the 2021 season into readjusting to play.

Central’s sports teams are encourged to take part in a service project during the season, leaving the door open to future fundraisers.

“It was a really meaningful experience and just coming out after the round and you know, (Osterbur) asking us how many birdies you got and, you know, saying, ‘oh, I got three,’ and adding to the total, it was a meaningful experience,” said golfer Wade Schacht, a senior.