The world needs more Max Schmidtkes.
Not because the Sheboygan North senior earned Fox Rivers Classic Conference golfer of the year honors last week for the second straight season, but for what he did at the annual Erin Hills MACC Fund Invitational in early May.
Schmidtke had golfed his first nine holes and finished eating a brat at the turn when he walked to the 10th hole.
That’s when he saw a golfer from Arrowhead talking to a child near the tee. Schimidtke then introduced himself to the boy named Linkin, a 9-year-old from West Allis who has a brain tumor that part of was removed by doctors.
But because the tumor was wrapped around a vital artery in Linkin’s brain, he still has part of it in his head and is going through a 62-week chemo therapy trial to see if it can break apart the tumor because surgery is too dangerous.
Schmidtke, a four-year varsity golfer who will continue the sport at the University of Illinois-Springfield next season, gave Linkin some golf balls and ball markers.
In return, Linkin gave Schmidtke a book he got published called “My Friend Lincoln,” which is narrated by one of the child’s friends who also has cancer.
Schmidtke says it is about a day in the life of a person that has cancer, what is different about it and what some of the challenges are.
Meanwhile, North coach Andrew Delong had continued to walk the course but was unsure where Schmidtke was.
A short time later, Schmidtke came up from behind Delong and told him he accomplished his goal for the tournament.
“I’m like, ‘Max, you’ve played nine holes,’” Delong said. “He said, ‘no, my only real goal was to talk to one of the kids with cancer, get to know them and their story a little bit.’
“That’s just the kind of kid Max is. He’s just so giving and compassionate. My initial reaction was that’s the definition of Max. He seems to find the value, the life value, in so many lessons that kids don’t see.
“He’s grown into it. Like as a sophomore, I don’t think he had that appreciation. As a senior, it was so obvious his goal was to talk to those kids and try to better their day a little but, just understand what they fight for. They’re fighting for their life and how that’s different than fighting for a round or fighting for a shot.”
After the golfers had finished, Linkin asked one of the MACC Fund people to find the two golfers he met earlier. Once found, they went to the clubhouse to hang out some more.
I asked Schmidtke why.
“Just to have a memory aside from the golf,” he said. “I think that tournament, to me at least, is so much more than the golf. I feel like being able to meet a kid we’re raising the money for really puts an emotional connection to going door to door asking for donations. I think being able to meet a family that I raised money for is very rewarding, not only for myself, but for that family as well. I can tell you, after I hung out with Linkin, I’ve become friends with his mom on Facebook and I’m going to be able to keep in touch with him to follow how his treatment is going. I think being able to meet him and socialize with him for a little bit was something that I’ll remember for a very long time.”