Growing up, Sunday afternoons for young Will Purbaugh were spent in his grandmother’s living room watching Tiger Woods play golf.
Purbaugh’s grandmother, Carol Chitester enjoyed the company, and formed a loving bond with Will over time.
The grandmother and grandson would share thoughts on the golf matches. But they shared more than the love for golf.
She loved family. Family was the focus.
Chitester passed away in 2017.
Right after she watched her grandson play his senior season of golf, graduate from Turkeyfoot Valley High School, and deliver a powerful Valedictorian speech.
“Her love for our family, it was evident,” Purbaugh said. “Any time you’d see her that was the focus and number one goal in life to love and provide for them.”
His grandmother’s death wasn’t the first tragic loss Purbaugh suffered.
In 2007, Will lost his father, Roger, to a heart attack compounded by Hodgkins lymphoma.
Prior to high school, Purbaugh never played an organized match. He never took a lesson, and in fact, had never even lifted a golf club.
Over time, however, his competitiveness and work ethic led him onto the course, a place he’d become quite comfortable.
Nathan Enos, a friend of Purbaugh from Confluence, PA, said their initial encounters were unique.
“We both liked the same girl,” Enos said. “We went to the same church: me, Will and the girl. We were actually rivals and that’s not an exaggeration. He didn’t have a chance, but he wouldn’t give up.”
Shortly after, the two moved passed the girl and became close friends. Enos spotted the same competitiveness when on a vacation with the Purbaugh family.
“In the middle of a normal go-kart race he runs up and hits his stepdad, rubs him like he’s racing NASCAR, tries to spin him out and almost gets into an actual fist fight racing go-karts in Ocean City,” he said.
Purbaugh’s work ethic and competitive attitude pushed him through his senior year of golf, which he admits wasn’t as strong as wanted. There weren’t any college offers for him.
In mid-March, he filled out an application for Waynesburg and was invited to campus for a visit with golf coach Sam Jones.
“Coach Jones said, ‘I’m a coach that focuses more on the mental aspect, if you’re looking for that kind of coach that [focuses on swing] I’m not your guy,’” Purbaugh said.
A few weeks later, he signed his Letter of Intent and became a Yellow Jacket.
“The funniest thing is I had zero interest in coming to Waynesburg, none,” Purbaugh said. “It was the first school I crossed off, I heard there was nothing there.”
Despite the initial hesitation as an incoming freshman, he’ll return to campus in the fall and look to his senior season, after the COVID-19 outbreak brought the 2020 season to a close.
“[Almost] three years into being at Waynesburg, it was the perfect choice,” Purbaugh said. “It was truly God saying this is where you need to be. I wouldn’t trade Waynesburg for anything in the world.”
The work ethic and competitive nature remain in him today.
“People change,” Enos said. “but Will does things his own way. He’s just Will.”
Purbaugh looks back on his childhood and senior year of high school with his grandmother as something he’ll always remember.
“My relationship with my grandmother is one I cherish every day of my life and you know it was a tough thing to lose her,” Purbaugh said. “The thing that keeps our family going is knowing how much she did and still loves us to this day.”