Thomas Sharkey was the sort of golfer who inspired with his upbeat attitude, and Georgia Southern’s program is better for his presence.
That’s how men’s coach Larry Mays remembered Sharkey, who was killed early Sunday when fire swept through the family home in Scotland.
“He was short in stature but made up for it in in personality,” Mays said of the 5-foot-8-inch Sharkey, who would have been a sophomore this fall after redshirting in the 2009-10 season. “You knew he was in the room; he was usually leading the conversation. There was always a lot of banter back and forth with our American kids about the Ryder Cup and who the best players in the world were.”
Sharkey, 21, was pronounced dead at the scene in Helensburgh, and his sister, Bridget, 8, died later at a hospital in Paisley, near Glasgow, according to The Telegraph newspaper, which cited witnesses’ accounts and investigators’ reports. The Sharkeys’ parents, Thomas Sr., 55, and Angela, 46, were being treated for severe burns.
Police detectives and forensic investigators spent much of Sunday at the fire scene northwest of Glasgow and are treating the blaze as suspicious, according to Chief Inspector Fergus Byrne, the Strathclyde police area commander.
“We believe that this fire was started intentionally,” Byrne told The Telegraph, “and the deaths are now being treated as murder.”
Autopsies are pending, Byrne said.
Mays said Sharkey’s “homemade swing” and strong work ethic combined with his outsized character to create a lasting presence on the Georgia Southern program.
“He worked real hard last year to get into tournaments,” Mays said.
Sharkey played in seven tournaments for the Eagles, with a tie for 32nd at the Schenkel Invitational in March as his best finish.
The fact that Sharkey, who was No. 892 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, qualified for that many events “is a tribute to how hard he worked to get better,” Mays said.
Sharkey found his way to Georgia Southern via Gordon Sherry, the 1995 British Amateur champion, with whom Mays has a recruiting relationship.
Sharkey was scheduled to play in this week’s Scottish Amateur.
Mays will be in England next week, on a previously scheduled recruiting trip. He says there have been initial discussions to host a memorial service on Georgia Southern’s campus in Statesboro after students return for the fall term.