Today, those hands that belong to Deron Feldhaus (pictured right, AP Photo) probably are dirty, even greasy. That can happen when you serve as a jack-of-all-trades on a golf course. Feldhaus, 43, is co-owner of Kenton Station Golf Course in Maysville, Ky., a nine-hole facility. There, he does it all.
"We use those old gang mowers that the tractor pulls behind," Feldhaus told GCM by phone this week, "and I even have my chemical license. We operate on a minimal budget, so I do about everything. I work on the equipment, sharpen the blades, even give lessons during the day."
At night, he will partake in what millions of people do annually in March. Like Feldhaus, they will turn on their flat screens, big screens, iPads, whatever it takes to catch a dose of the NCAA Tournament. For Feldhaus, that major event has significant meaning.
He played in it 20 years ago.
Feldhaus saw action for the Kentucky Wildcats, who also happen to be the overall No. 1 seed in this year's tournament as they prepare to face Indiana in a South Regional semifinal Friday night in Atlanta. The mere fact that Feldhaus played a part in what occurred March 28, 1992, is a story in itself.
He redshirted as a freshman, then chose to stay even after the basketball program was nailed for major NCAA violations and banned from postseason play for two seasons. By the time Feldhaus was a senior, Kentucky had regrouped in a big way, advancing to the East Regional final in Philadelphia to face Duke. The Blue Devils built a 12-point lead, but the Wildcats rallied, tying the game 93-all on a Feldhaus basket with 33.6 seconds remaining.
The game went to overtime ... and Feldhaus soon became part of a historical image.
Kentucky led 103-102 with 2.1 seconds left. Grant Hill inbounded the ball from under his own basket, heaving a pass to the opposite free throw line, where teammate Christian Laettner, who was facing him, grabbed it. Laettner dribbled once, spun to face the basket from just inches behind the free throw line, and launched that fateful attempt.
Feldhaus, wearing the No. 12 jersey, was directly behind Laettner, who is 6-feet-11. Feldhaus, who is 6-feet-7, slightly lunged and leaped toward Laettner, trying to avoid a foul, his hands outstretched in an effort to alter Laettner's aim. The shot, though, found the target as the buzzer sounded, giving Duke a dramatic 104-103 triumph. In 2007, the cable TV show "The Best Damn Sports Show Period" ranked Laettner's shot as the most memorable shot of all time at any level of basketball.
You probably have seen footage of it lately. A UPS commericial that has been airing during the NCAA Tournament includes Laettner's buzzer-beater. Feldhaus, of course, is in the frame with Laettner.
"It doesn't bother me that they keep showing the shot," Feldhaus says. "I have no problem with it. It doesn't change anything for me."
Although Feldhaus and his teammates had their hearts broken, a heartwarming story emerged later. Then-Kentucky coach Rick Pitino had dubbed Feldhaus and three of his teammates (John Pelphrey, Sean Woods and Richie Farmer) as "The Unforgettables" because they were the four freshmen who chose to remain at Kentucky instead of transferring, helping rebuild a program that was rocked by scandal. Shortly after the Duke game in '92, the school retired all four of the players' jerseys and hoisted them in Rupp Arena.
Recently, Feldhaus stopped by Rupp Arena to watch the state high school tournament. He looked up, toward the rafters, and saw his No. 12.
"I peeked up there to make sure it was still there," Feldhaus says, finishing with a laugh.
Feldhaus received a business management degree from Kentucky. Now, he wishes he had pursued something in turfgrass. He played professional basketball in Japan for five years, but came home to Kentucky and went to work at Kenton Station Golf Course, which he shares ownership with his father and stepmother.
"I wasn't sure what I was going to do when I came back from Japan, but I started helping out at the golf course and began to enjoy it," says Feldhaus, who placed third in the high school state golf tournament as a senior. "I like being outside and staying busy. It's a lot of sweat, but that's OK."