Golf courses are littered with traps, hazards and rough. Countless obstacles affect every shot. And once you complete one hole, you immediately move on to a new set of challenges.
That sounds a little like what one local athlete and her family have endured the past few years.
Seaman Lois Deeter, one of the top golfers in the state, recently committed to play at Arkansas Tech after graduation. It’s an accomplishment to celebrate for a senior who has had to navigate challenges on and off the course for the past several years.
Hurricane Harvey splits up the Deeter family
Hurricane Harvey, which ripped into south Texas in August of 2017, started disrupting Lois’ life shortly thereafter. Her parents, both in the business of catastrophe insurance adjustment, increased their workload, which already involved a lot of commuting. With their mother spending so much time in the Houston area, Lois’ older brother J.P. decided to spend a year with her there.
“I didn’t want to leave (my wife) Tausha down there by herself,” said Lois’ father John. “I asked J.P. ‘Do you want to stay down here for a while and help your mom?’ And he said ‘Yeah, I can.’”
Due to a lack of housing options, Tausha and J.P. wound up living on a boat for the first several months.
As one of the youngest in his grade, it was decided that J.P. would use the move to reclassify, repeating the eighth grade. He returned to Topeka the next year and joined the Topeka High football team.
Shortly thereafter, Lois established herself on the links. When she finished fifth at the 5A state tournament as a freshman, things looked pretty straightforward. Her brother J.P. was a rising football star at Topeka High.
But that’s when things got rocky.
It was learned that the year in Texas would cost J.P. a season of football were he to remain in Kansas. So after his sophomore season he transferred to a school in Manvel, Texas, in January 2020. He would spend up to a couple of weeks at a time alone in an apartment while his parents commuted back and forth.
“Our whole family was going to move down to Texas after that school year,” Tausha said. “Lois was telling everyone her freshman year, ‘I’m moving to Texas in May.’ But then COVID hit, and our plans all changed. We had to look at ourselves and say, ‘What do we do now?’ We decided to keep the girls (in Topeka) while John and I traveled back and forth from Texas.”
COVID and Lois' sophomore year of golf
That fall, the pandemic threatened to wipe out Lois’ sophomore golf season.
“I really didn’t know what the season was going to hold. I was pretty concerned we weren’t even going to have a season,” said Seaman golf coach Julie McLaughlin. “My main concern for her was that if the season ends and you’re not pursuing golf in any other way, then you’re losing a whole season.
“I talked to her and said: ‘You have got to think about what if our season doesn’t happen. You need to be thinking about how that’s going to affect you, because you’ve got a future in golf.' I just laid it out for her and said, ‘I want you and your family to think about your opportunities.’”
Having just been faced with tough choices about their son, the Deeters now had to make some quick decisions about Lois. They decided the best choice was for Lois to play in junior circuit events in Texas in lieu of the Seaman team. Like her parents, she began commuting back and forth to play golf.
“She practiced with us for a couple of weeks, and then she came to me and said, ‘I think I’m going to sit this one out,” McLaughlin said. “I’m not sure what all her thinking was in the decision, but I said, ‘I fully support that because I want what’s best for you.’”
“It was a really hard decision because my freshman year was really one of the best years of my sports life,” Lois said. “To have to step away from it and miss out on all the good times with my friends was really hard.”
There was one benefit to the new arrangement.
“My brother and I are super close, so it’s kind of hard living apart,” Lois said. “Going back and forth to Texas and doing school online all the time gave me free time to go visit him.”
Lois capitalized on the situation, putting in long hours on the course and the driving range.
John and Tausha, who also have a 12-year-old daughter Liz, did all they could to make sure their family bonds remain strong.
“In a way it kept us together stronger because our kids have been able to do what they want in their heart. We’ve provided them an opportunity to go chase their dreams,” John said. When we all come back together, we actually want to be together. When it comes to holidays, we’re all around each other. It might just be in a different city. That kind of pulls us together.”
Lois Deeter returns for a great junior year at Seaman
After a season away from the Seaman golf team, Lois was eager to return for her junior season.
“She missed the team aspect of the game,” McLaughlin said. “She always wants to be one of the group. It would be easy for her to be off on her own because she’s so good. But she’s doesn’t. She is really all about the team. She is a leader on the golf course and off the golf course.”
“I love golf, but I hate the individual part of it,” Lois said. “That’s why I love school golf, because I thrive off the team aspect of it. Having fun with the girls just means so much to me. Golf can be so stressful, and the girls just really bring it to ease.”
Lois isn’t just a support to her Seaman teammates. She is known for her encouragement of opponents as well.
“I’ve had a lot of parents come up to me and say, ‘We really appreciate Lois’ demeaner on the golf course and how accepting she is,’” her dad said. “They say, ‘My kid was so nervous, but Lois made her feel at home and comfortable.’ She supported so many girls along the way, not just here in Topeka but nationally."
Lois returned to the Seaman team with a flourish. She claimed the Seaman Invitational and the Topeka West Invitational. Then on Oct. 4 or last year, she fired a career-best 6-under par 66 at Stagg Hill to win the Manhattan Invitational by 10 strokes.
She took second at the Regional meet. At the end of her junior seasons, Lois placed fifth again at the state tournament. She admits that was a bit of a disappointment, but she is realistic about the fickle nature of the sport.
“I would like to take first every time out, of course, but golf can be all luck sometimes,” Lois said. “You won’t always shoot the best score. I do want (a state title) bad. But 5A golf is the hardest competition of all the classifications. So it will just be who has the best round that day.”
The Deeters grow closer together through adversity
The senior has taken first in tournaments at Emporia and Seaman this season, while she tied for third at Topeka West.
Over the past two seasons, Lois has faced the added pressure of college recruitment. After studying options that included Power Five colleges, she recently committed to Arkansas Tech.
“The recruiting part is hard, but I’m very grateful that I have the opportunity,” Lois said. “Committing has lifted so much weight off of my shoulders. Just all that stress piled on top of you, thinking about what coaches will say and trying to do everything right. Now that I’m committed, I don’t have to worry about anything. I’m excited to be a college golfer. It’s like a little girl’s dream.”
“The sky is the limit for Lois because she is such a hard worker,” McLaughlin said. “I’m excited to see her go on to college and beyond because she’s got a lot of potential.”
Lois wasn’t the only one trying to navigate the recruiting process. J.P. was a highly sought-after defensive lineman. He committed to play football at Purdue and opted to graduate from Manvel High School early to enroll in college in the spring 2022.
“He had to grow up pretty quick,” Tausha said of her son. “But that helped in his recruitment. The (college) coaches could see he hasn’t messed up. He cooks his own food. He washes his own clothes. He handled the responsibility and made all the right decisions.”
“Lois had to mature a lot during it all too,” John added. “She had to help out around the house and take care of her sister while we were away.”
The Deeters have endured a lot of car trips, scheduled a lot of family video chats and made many sacrifices along the way. But they don’t have a lot of regrets.
“It has had a lot of challenges. But we’re happy with the way it all turned out,” John said. “We just prayed about it and let God tell us where to go. We’re not saying it was by any means the right way to go for other families. But it worked for us.
“We’ve grown stronger and better from having gone through some of those difficulties. My kids have learned how to deal with issues and overcome them.”
“I can see why my parents did what they did to make sure we all got to where we needed to be and to live up to our potential,” Lois said. “It hasn’t been easy, but in the end, it all works out. It’s really good to know all that work has got me to a great place,” Lois said.
This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Deeter family overcomes adversity, Lois finds next step