Thursday, April 27, 2006

If This Story Doesn't Put A Tear In Your Eye...

Dakoda Dowd is a 13 year who is very much in the mold of Michelle Wie. She is considered one of if not the top golfer in her age group in the nation. But that is not what this story is about.

Her mom, Kelly Jo Dowd, is fighting cancer and is only expected to live a few more months. One of her dreams was to see her daughter play on the LPGA. The LPGA was kind enough to grant her an exemption and let her play this week.

Here is an excerpt of the story from Fox Sports:

"Fantabulous," Kelly Jo Dowd said. "I have to make up my own vocabulary to describe it."

With one swing of the driver at 9:32 a.m. Thursday, and the 73 shots that followed over the next five hours, Dakoda made Kelly Jo's dream came true. The teen made her LPGA debut at the Ginn Clubs & Resorts Open, which extended the terminally ill mother a chance to see her daughter compete against the game's best.

Dakoda finished the day with a 2-over 74, nine shots behind Cristie Kerr. Yet for the first time in Dakoda's golf life, winning wasn't the goal, nor the plan.

"I didn't have any expectations for this tournament, except to go out there and have a great time and look over and see my mom," said Dakoda, a winner of more than 100 tournaments and ranked among the nation's best 13-year-old players. "It did feel good shooting 74. I'm just really happy to be here."

So is her mom, on a number of different levels.

Kelly Jo Dowd is fighting cancer for the second time in four years. She was given a clean bill of health after doctors believed she beat breast cancer, but she learned last year that she has terminal bone and liver cancer — and, conceivably, only months to live.

She wept and smiled when the starter announced Dakoda on the tee box as "a remarkable young lady." And the tears stopped when Dakoda hit a perfect drive down the left-center of the fairway to open her round - setting up her only birdie of the day, one that followed an approach to 2 feet on the 528-yard par-5.

"She's playing with a heart full of love for her mom," said Mike Dowd, Dakoda's father. "The kid's got this in her, but I think this is more about God doing something for our lives right now. We walk out of our house this morning and see a rainbow. Then a birdie on the first hole. Come on. There's something else going on here."

When Ginn officials learned of Kelly Jo's wish to see her daughter play on the LPGA Tour, they offered a sponsor's exemption into the field. Dakoda was paired with Kate Golden and Tracy Hanson — both at least 21 years older than the phenom — and held her own, even outdriving both pros on a couple occasions.

Golden told Kelly Jo before the round not to worry, that "we'll take good care of your girl." And Hanson was particularly touched by Dakoda's story, since cancer claimed her mother nearly eight years ago.

"God knocked me on the head and said, 'Now, wait a minute. You have a purpose and a reason for being in that group,"' said Hanson, who shot 69. "I lost my mom to cancer, so it's very near and dear to my heart, their story. And it was a little emotional there on the first tee."

Dakoda arrived at the driving range 90 minutes before her starting time, looking relaxed. She chewed on her right thumbnail for a few minutes before teeing off, then hugged her mother and exhaled in relief when that first ball hit the fairway.

You can read the rest of the story here.

Oh, and pass the tissues.

Golf Times

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