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The Man Behind the Name

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Photo courtesy Keokee Publishing/Sandpoint Magazine Photo courtesy Keokee Publishing/Sandpoint Magazine

Who was Jaime Packer and why is there an activities center named after him?

After a long and arduous golf season a few years ago, Hidden Lakes professional Jamie Packer “kidnapped” fellow professional Mike Deprez and “forced” him to go to Canada to play golf with him and his friend Jason Hicks. In their last round, they played a game of skins, a format in which each hole is worth something—called a “skin”—and the best score of the hole wins the skin. A tie for best means that the skin carries forward to the next hole.

To complicate matters, the threesome decided that a skin couldn’t be collected unless “proven,” and to “prove” a skin, it was necessary to par the hole following the hole won to collect it. Because of the “prove” rule, it came to pass that all 18 skins were still uncollected on the 18th hole, a par three upon which all three golfers reached the green in one stroke. Deprez was “out”—furthest from the hole—then, Packer, and closest was Hicks. Hicks had won the previous hole and this was his hole to par and prove —for all the skins. Both Deprez and Packer made par. Hicks hit his first putt to two feet below the hole and then—with Deprez and Packer looking on—yanked his easy par putt past the hole to lose all the skins he might have won had he made the putt.

“Nobody said a thing,” Deprez remembers. “There was nothing to say. We walked to the car in silence. We changed our shoes in silence. We put the clubs in the trunk and began down the road. We didn’t turn on the radio. The silence just got bigger.

“About ten minutes into our drive home, Jamie says quietly from the back seat, ‘Nice putt, Hicksey.’ It was perfect timing. We all laughed until we were almost crying. Perfect timing.”

Jamie Packer had a knack for that perfect moment, and for enjoying it to its fullest. Into his short life, ended by a car accident in 2005, he stuffed more living than many people do into 80 years. Jamie was a skier, skater and a fine enough golfer to be a professional from age 20. He joined the teaching staff at Hidden Lakes in 1998, where he instructed until he died.

Packer was born in England in 1971 and raised in northern Alberta. One of his proudest possessions was his CPGA card. The “C” stood for “Canadian,” an anomaly that he and his friends had a lot of fun with. He did finally accept a PGA card in his last season at Hidden Lakes.

Sandpoint West Athletic Club owner Don Helander remembers golf lessons with Jamie. “He didn’t try to dismantle my swing and put it back together,” Don said, “but rather let me have my swing and showed me how to use it more efficiently.”

As a left-handed golfer teaching mostly right-handers the art and science of golf, Packer had a very interesting method that can only be describe as “looking in the mirror.” He stood facing the student, showing them how to hold their hands on the grip, how to bring the club into position at the top of the swing, and how to strike the ball. Emulation was easy because of the mirror effect.

Packer’s widow Sheila had just given birth to their son Brady when he was killed. She is excited and pleased about the prospect of a recreation center named after him.

“Ten years ago,” she recalls, “when this idea was first presented, Jamie was secretary-treasurer of the group that was trying to get it going. He was raised in a community with a similar center. It was a central part of his growing up.

Sheila, who has since remarried, is very interested in the proposal. “I’ve been going to city council meetings,” she say. “I like it that it could make things available to people who might not otherwise be able to afford access to a facility like this.”

“I think Jamie would think it is an awesome idea.”

Packer loved golf, and he loved hockey. But above those things, he loved his family, his friends and God. His wife, two daughters and son were blessed with a fine husband and father. His joy at their presence in his life was always apparent, as was his love of life itself. In a world that seems full of somewhat confused and often self-obsessed 30-somethings, Packer belied his age with a wisdom and contentment some people never achieve.

If the center is built, the builders could go a long way and not find a better name than the one they have chosen.

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Author info

Sandy Compton Sandy Compton Sandy Compton is one of the original contributors to The River Journal, and owner and publisher at Blue Creek Press (www.bluecreekpress.com). His latest book is Side Trips From Cowboy: Addiction, Recovery and the Western American Myth

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Jamie Packer, Hidden Lakes Golf Course

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