FD’s Kuhlman experiences ‘Iowa Nice’ firsthand after losing priceless jewelry on the golf course
Roxanne Kuhlman had all but given up hope.
The Fort Dodge resident was playing in the 40th annual Fort Dodge Ford Lincoln Toyota Webster County golf tournament at Lakeside Golf Course when she noticed a precious piece of her past was suddenly missing.
Three rings previously worn by her late daughter Kristin — who passed away three summers ago at the age of 24 — were on a long chain Kuhlman always keeps with her. And as the nine-time tourney champion made the turn during her opening round on Saturday, she realized that at some point, the rings had fallen off.
“I was in a total panic,” Kuhlman admitted. “Kind of (alternating between) being shocked and distraught. I had given Kristin those rings for her 16th, 17th and 19th birthdays. When I realized they were missing, I started crying.
“Losing something small on a golf course — especially when you really have no idea when or where it happened — is never a good thing. And it’s hard to put into words how much those rings mean to me and to our family.”
Kuhlman felt overwhelmed. It didn’t take long, though, for her to realize she was anything but alone in her quest to find the missing jewelry.
Amy Moffitt, Jaime Plane and Amy Pingel were playing in the group behind Kuhlman. They quickly caught wind of what was going on.
“When we got done at No. 9, we heard about what had happened and could tell Roxanne was really upset,” Moffitt said. “We committed to finishing our 18, and then going back in reverse order to search the holes for her.
“It wasn’t about golf at that point. Actually, we hadn’t even planned on necessarily playing (in the tournament), but Jaime told us on Friday morning that we were in, so we kind of reluctantly agreed. We realized, after the fact, that we had a bigger purpose in being out there.”
Moffitt, Plane and Pingel joined the impromptu search group, which separately included Kuhlman; her husband, Randy; son, Joe; and a handful of others who had heard about the situation.
“Talk about the definition of ‘Iowa Nice,'” Kuhlman said. “It was nothing short of inspirational, especially given the number of people who got involved that we didn’t even know. The beer-cart gal. One of the (Lakeside staffers) mowing the fairways. Scott Van Gundy. Tim Dubois. Scott Stiles. We were trying our best to retrace my steps, and had to go back while other groups were on the (front-nine holes). We told them to keep an eye out for anything shiny. They all said, ‘absolutely. Glad to help.’
“I was amazed by how willing they were to go the extra mile to find the rings.”
For as many eyes as there were scanning the landscape, though, the search party was still coming up empty. Kuhlman, in particular, had been combing the course with Randy and Joe for over two hours.
Enter one of Kuhlman’s playing partners from the weekend: Kathy Fortune.
“Kathy was leaving the course and Amy, Jaime and Amy flagged her down. She happened to have her window down about five inches in her car as she was pulling away, and they stopped her,” Kuhlman said. “The group asked if she wanted to help them look more. Like everyone else, she didn’t hesitate.”
Fortune began to retrace all of Kuhlman’s shots on the front side, going backward from hole No. 9.
“It was incredible,” Kuhlman said. “She remembered everyone’s round from our group. Where we were. What we did. And trust me: I hit a lot of shots. That’s not easy.”
Fortune, who went on to win the women’s senior division championship, could tell how much this meant to Kuhlman.
“Of course I wanted to do whatever I could,” Fortune said. “So I walked through all of her shots, from the last one on back. These rings obviously meant a great deal to her. We didn’t want to give up, even though on a golf course, it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.”
When the group got to the third hole, Fortune had remembered a sand shot Kuhlman hit.
“I put my second shot in the trap, and bladed a bunker shot,” Kuhlman said. “Then I had chipped short. So Kathy told Amy (Moffitt) to draw an imaginary line between the sand trap through the flag, and go from there.”
Plane remembers Moffitt’s reaction when she first saw the rings on the other side of the sand trap.
“I think her voice went up an entire octive. She screamed, ‘I found them! I found them!'” Plane said. “We all ran toward her and started to celebrate.
“Roxanne was still on the course, walking on her own and trying to retrace her steps.”
Plane, Moffitt and Pingel didn’t have any way of reaching Kuhlman at first.
“I used to work with her son, so I gave him a call instead,” Moffitt said. “I said, ‘Joe, this is Amy Moffitt,’ knowing how random that call must have seemed. I explained what we were doing, and asked him if he knew what was going on. I said, ‘well, we found the rings.’ He responded, ‘no way!’
“We were in the clubhouse, and Roxanne was coming in from the course. We saw her from a distance and were all yelling, ‘ROXANNE!’ She came running toward us. When we reunited her with the rings, many tears of joy were shed.”
Plane said it was “a moment none of us will ever forget.”
“This was our reason for being out here,” Plane said. “We just signed up to have fun and a ‘girls day’ on the course. Were there times where we didn’t think we’d find (the rings)? Of course. Realistically speaking, it’s hard to think it would actually happen. But we didn’t want to give up, or look back and wonder, ‘what if we’d kept looking?’
“Kathy’s direction was so important. It gave us more of a focus as to where the rings could be, instead of just randomly searching. It was a real long shot, but we didn’t want to quit.”
It started as one of her worst days in years. By the end, Kuhlman couldn’t believe her good fortune — not just because the rings had been retrieved, but she had witnessed the selfless nature of several “angels on the course.”
“(Lakeside clubhouse manager) Mike (Nash) had given us carts to look, and at one point, I was about 10 feet away from where Amy ended up finding the rings,” Kuhlman said. “I realized after the fact that we couldn’t have done this alone. I can’t thank everyone enough for going the extra mile in their own special way.
“Jaime, Amy and Amy were right there for the whole thing. They made it their mission. And Kathy — what a blessing. What a memory. I know all of these gals, of course, but we weren’t necessarily close before this. Now I feel like I have a bond with them forever. They were the answer to my prayers.”