Do you remember exactly when and how you met your "best friend?" Or maybe one of your best friends? Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School golf coach Steve Koepke does – and so does his buddy.
"Well, it goes back 10 years ago last week,'" said Koepke, a couple days after the finish of the 2011 Greater Cedar Rapids Open. Ten years ago last week! That's like remembering your anniversary. No, wait, he's probably got it better than most of us as far as that goes.
Koepke and England's Tim Owers have developed a bond that not everyone is fortunate to have. And, when Owers comes over from London each year to play in the GCRO, well, it just adds to the legacy.
"When I was 8 if someone would have said one of your best, best friends is going to be a kid growing up in London, England, I would have never believed them," said Koepke, 38. "But that's what golf can do because it's such a great, worldwide game."
The two met because – get this – their sisters – Ann and Sara, respectively – were doing a teacher exchange between the U.S. and England.
"They swapped jobs, cars and apartments," said Owers, who last month played in his fifth GCRO, the first as a professional.
Koepke's sister had Owers' sister step up a game for the two when Steve came to visit.
"I was 28 and going to Europe and bringing my clubs," said Koepke, who finished tied for fifth in the Amateur Division with an 8-over-par 152 two-round total. "It was a great UK golf trip. He was going to meet me at the train in London. I was told there would be a skinny Brit waiting for me there. I saw him and he saw me and I said 'Tim?' and he said 'Steve' and after that it's really been history.
"We went to his club and played that day and we found we had a lot in common," continued Koepke. "The common thread is truly golf, but we have a lot of other things in common we started discussing. The friendship sort of kick-started from nowhere."
Owers truly enjoys his visits to the States, even if he would like to golf better than he did at the GCRO, where he finished with a 10-over-par 154. There's more to it than that though.
"Steve and I sit on his deck and chew the fat as we say," said Owers, who played here four times previously as an amateur, his best finish a tie for eighth. "We discuss all sorts of things, primarily golf, but we have many similarities ... It was such a crazy turn of events."
Owers has helped at Koepke's golf camp, but there's more to it than that. When Koepke and his wife, Lynne, where on their honeymoon in Europe and used Tim's place as a "home base," Tim dropped the question on Steve if he'd like to be his best man. The answer was easy and Tim and Aimee had Steve standing up for them. Owers doesn't want to be a visitor to the U.S. for the rest of his life.
"My ultimate goal is to get a director of golf position or become a head golf professional somewhere here in the States, and to have the opportunity to meet people like (GCRO chairman) Jim Winker and (GRCO co-founder) Jim McPartland," he said.
A pro who regained his amateur status and now is a pro again, Owers worked as a mortgage consultant before getting back in the golf business at his current position at Hampton Court Palace in London. He's in charge of sales and membership there. But he longs for the USA.
"In the U.S., you have this attitude that if you work hard you can make it (a certain situation) happen. In the UK, golf professionals are not afforded opportunities a lot of guys get over here," said Owers. "It's a 'let's make this work attitude.' I think the attitude, certainly in Iowa, is great. Work hard and do the right things and things will happen. It's certainly the land of opportunity."
Owers said when he finally boarded his plane home to the UK last week he would already be thinking of returning to Cedar Rapids next year. And Koepke would be looking forward to the return of his good buddy.
"It's just a couple of guys who kind of got together because of golf and we've turned it into much, much more than that," said Koepke. "It's certainly the most unique friendship I've had in my adult life and certainly one I value greatly."