Forging friendships on a golf course is not unusual, but this particular friendship goes well beyond golf and golf courses.
Brooke White, 18, and Mikaela Thibodeau, 17, met three years ago when they were freshmen at Cypress Bay High in Broward County, both trying out for the golf team.
“When we saw each other at that tryout, we immediately clicked,” Mikaela remembers.
Together, they did what young girls do — they played golf, talked, listened to music, studied.
Then, this past February, the friendship became more necessary, more important than either Brooke or Mikaela thought possible. That was when Brooke’s mother, Angela Kramer-White, died of cancer at age 48, and Brooke desperately needed her friend to be there for her.
Her friend was.
“At first, I was afraid of what to say to Brooke,” Mikaela said. “I didn’t want to say the wrong thing.
“It was so hard seeing how much Brooke hurt. She was holding everything in. Everything was deep down inside of her.”
However, Brooke’s hurt could not be completely hidden no matter how hard she tried. Mikaela could see the hurt in her face and hear it in her words.
“And I wanted to cry also,” Mikaela said, but she didn’t want to let her grief become an added burden on Brooke.
Finally, Mikaela decided this was no time to be silent. It was a time to be honest, brave and strong and to be a friend. Time to say what she thought. One night, Brooke and Mikaela were in the stands at a high school baseball game and Brooke realized something and broke down in tears.
“I’m not going to have my Mom at my graduation,” Brooke said.
Mikaela looked up and saw a star and told Brooke, “Yes you are, Brooke. You see that star up there. That’s your Mom. Just look at the clouds and stars — your Mom is still here.”
Angela Kramer-White was an important part of the Cypress Bay golf team and headed the physical education department at the school, and there is one word that comes up repeatedly in talking about her. That word is “special.” It seems any and all people who had any dealings or contact with Angie White described her with that singular word — special.
She certainly was special to the Cypress Bay girls’ golf team, which is coached by her husband, Mike.
When the golf team went to the state tournament in October, finishing second, they put homemade ribbons in their caps with Angie’s initials on them. The players made tribute bracelets in her honor. They would call her each night to let her know how they had done. And it was the golf team that provided the impetus to hold the first Angela Kramer-White Memorial Golf Tournament, to be held at Jacaranda Golf Club in Plantation on April 28.
Money raised will go to the family as Mike White, who also is the baseball coach at Cypress Bay, is now suddenly raising six children by himself. In addition to Brooke, they are John Michael, 22, at the University of Florida; Shane, 21, at Santa Fe Community College; Michaela, 15, a freshman at Cypress Bay; Angela, 13, a freshman at Falcon Cove Middle School; and Brett, 8, at Manatee Elementary.
“I’m still shocked,” Mike White said of his wife’s death. “It’s overwhelming. So many people loved her so much. The family talks about Angie every day.”
In essence, Mikaela is part of that White family.
“Mikaela would come into our house and look at my mom and say, ‘Hi, Mom,’ ” Brooke said. “And I would go to Mikaela’s house and call her mom by the name Mom.”
Mikaela interjected about Angie, “She’s still definitely my mom. I look at my bracelet and talk to her.”
For the Cypress Bay golf team, Angie was also the team mom.
“She would always tell us how proud she was of us,” Mikaela said. “She was the first one to give us hugs no matter how we did.”
Angie’s strength is something Mikaela can’t necessarily comprehend, but it leaves her in awe.
“I would see her every day at school,” Mikaela said, “and she was sick, and she knew that I knew she was sick, and she would just tell me, ‘Keep smiling.’ That’s what she did for us that was so important — she passed her smile on to us.”
During her cancer fight, and most people didn’t know this, Angie was administering chemotherapy to herself while working at Cypress Bay.
One thing that made Angie smile, even more so than the usual grin, was seeing the bond between Brooke and Mikaela become so steadfast and strong.
Of course, when Brooke and Mikaela play golf, it still is a competition — “a friendly rivalry,” they say.
“But in the end,” Brooke admitted, “she kicks my butt.”
Right now, there’s no complete healing for Brooke, and there may never be, but she knows a person she met on a golf course three years ago has been there with her every step of the way. And that helps.
“We are sisters,” Brooke said.
Said Mikaela: “Yes we are.”