The Wolfpacker

January 2017

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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102 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY TIM PEELER T en years ago, former NC State golfer Briana Vega became a reality television star and got a big boost for her professional golf career. Her mentor and benefactor? President-elect Donald Trump. Vega was the 2006 winner of the Golf Channel's "The Big Break VI: Trump Na- tional," with Trump making cameos in the premier and throughout the 11 episodes of the season at his Trump National Golf Club near Los Angeles. Vega survived elimination rounds against the other eight women competitors, won the match-play final against Bridget Dwyer, and then became the ultimate winner for the season by beating male champion Denny Helper in a nine-hole skins challenge. Vega won $21,000 and a new car, plus two sponsor's exemptions to play on the LPGA Tour. For the next nine years, she competed on the Symetra Tour, battling through a thumb injury that ultimately ended her professional playing career in 2013. Vega began working at the Country Club of Orlando in 2009 during her professional golf offseason. When she stopped play- ing professionally, she completed the PGA program and became a Class A golf profes- sional. She is now a full-time assistant pro at the club, where she is in charge of the ladies golf association, the pro shop mer- chandising and club tournaments. Vega bonded with Trump throughout the show — he called her "Bri baby"— and played a round of golf with him at his course in New York. He also sponsored her playing career. In the spirit of this second-annual "Where Are They Now" issue of The Wolf- packer, I tracked down a few other former NC State athletes who have become suc- cessful in their sports or in their chosen professional pursuits after graduation and who are leading interesting lives. * * * Remember when Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho-Hos almost went bye-bye? When Hostess Brands filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and was in the process of selling off all its bakeries and trademarks? You can thank, in part, NC State swim- ming alum Bill Toler (1981) for saving the company. He was named chief executive officer and president of a reorganized com- pany in 2014, changed its distribution sys- tems and company infrastructure, and took the previously private company public with great fanfare. Hostess recently joined the NASDAQ stock exchange, with Toler on hand Nov. 10 at the NASDAQ MarketSite in Times Square to ring the opening bell. Toler returned to NC State in November as part of the Poole College of Management Executive Speaker Series. During his lec- ture, he gave a big shout-out to his time as a swimmer for head coach Don Easterling. "NC State swimming and diving was an important part of who I became," he said. "You learn how to operate at a higher level. And that applies directly to what I try to do in business: strive to grow and lead and be better." So, next time you inhale a Twinkie, or or- der one deep-fried at the North Carolina State Fair, thank the Wolfpack swimming program. * * * It's been 10 years since Herb Sendek-era point guard Engin Atsur left Raleigh to play professional basketball in Europe. Fit- tingly, Atsur, the first international player ever recruited to the Wolfpack solely on the Internet, responded to an e-mail query — while riding on a bus through the streets of Moscow on his way to a EuroCup game. Atsur now plays for Alba Berlin in Ger- many, and he's spent time on the Turkish National Team. "It's so hard to believe that this is my 10th professional season," Atsur said. "My time at NC State doesn't feel that long ago. I'm still trying to apply the work ethic and discipline that Coach Sendek and his staff taught me. "I'm so very grateful for the time I had in Raleigh and the friendships I built during my time there." Atsur returns to Raleigh every summer to visit with friends, particularly former teammate Will Roach. The two are partners with Blaine Smith in Tradition Scarves, a company that makes European-style, school-affiliated scarves and other knit items that are sold to college athletics fans. Based in Raleigh, not far from the NC State campus, the company started out with three schools in 2009: NC State, Appalachian State and Indiana. Now, the company earns about $1 million per year with a product line that also includes toboggans, socks and bandanas. It markets to more than 70 schools, even the despicable blues of UNC and Duke. * * * It's hardly a surprise that former wom- en's basketball player Kaayla Chones (1999-2004) ended up working in basket- ball. The first-team All-ACC center and her four siblings are the progeny of former NBA champion Jim Chones, and all of them played Division I basketball. After her eight-year WNBA and European professional careers ended with a champion- ship in Israel in 2013, Kaayla Chones went to work for the Minnesota Timberwolves, where she now serves as the director of player programs, serving as a liaison for the team's players and their families each season. * * * Former All-American softball pitcher Abbie (Sims) Butler just completed her fifth season as the pitching coach at Kan- sas. The one-time holder of school records with 90 wins and 1,091 strikeouts, Butler has transferred her vast knowledge of the game to Jayhawk pitchers, who have fin- ished with an earned run average under 3.00 in four of the last five seasons. * * * And finally, one of my favorites: former Wolfpack wrestler Ryan Tice is the manag- ing editor for The Wolverine, Michigan's fan magazine. He's a contributing editor for other Coman Publishing magazines, a writer for The Wolfpacker and host of the new weekly Wolfpacker podcast. Check out Pack Pros in this issue, his regular feature about former NC State athletes who have moved on to the professional ranks. ■ ■ PACK PERSPECTIVE Catching Up With More Former Athletes Tim Peeler is a regular contributor to The Wolfpacker. You may contact him at The Wolfpacker is a publication of: Coman Publishing Company, Inc., P.O. Box 2331, Durham, N.C. 27702. Offices are located at 905 West Main St., Ste. 24F, Durham, N.C. 27701. (919) 688-0218. The Wolfpacker (ISSN 0273-8945) is published bimonthly. A subscription is $39.95 for six issues. For advertising or subscription information, call (800) 421-7751 or write The Wolfpacker. Postmaster: Send address changes to: The Wolfpacker, P.O. Box 2331, Durham, N.C. 27702. Periodical mail postage paid at Durham, N.C. 27702 and additional offices. First-class postage is $14 extra per year. E-mail: • Web site: Preisdent-elect Donald Trump (left) became a mentor and benefactor for former NC State golfer Briana Vega, providing a nice boost for her nine-year professional career. PHOTO COURTESY BRIANA VEGA

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