Dakoda and Dying Mom Embrace the Moment

By Associated PressApril 28, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 Ginn OpenREUNION, Fla. -- When her family moved from a spacious house into a tiny townhome, Dakoda Dowd gave more than 100 of her golf trophies away, saying she didn't need to keep them.
 
She added one to her collection Friday -- and it's not going anywhere.
 
Adding to what her cancer-stricken and terminally ill mother, Kelly Jo Dowd, called 'the perfect week,' the 13-year-old golf prodigy and her family received a replica of the winner's trophy on the 18th green early Friday evening after finishing her second round at the Ginn Clubs & Resorts Open.
 
Dakoda -- who shot an 82, eight shots higher than her Thursday score -- missed the cut by eight strokes.
 
Nobody minded, of course.
 
'I'm prouder today than I was yesterday that my daughter has the courage and strength to play with these LPGA professionals,' Kelly Jo said. 'And I feel great right now. I feel great. My dream came true out here. I saw my girl play with these amazing women. My dream came true.'
 
The scene shortly after Dakoda tapped in for a double bogey on the 18th was one normally reserved for champions, and Ginn tournament officials felt the Dowd family certainly qualified as such. Knowing that Kelly Jo adored the large Chihuly glass bowl that'll be awarded to the winner on Sunday, a replica was made.
 
A scant few were in on the secret, which was kept from Kelly Jo and Dakoda -- both of whom gasped when the gift was unveiled.
 
'I didn't want it to be over,' Dakoda said. 'And it is. And with all the prayers and everything, me and my mom and my family are going to keep living. It's definitely touched us. Our family's so much stronger now.'
 
The touching ceremony capped Dakoda's first LPGA Tour experience.
 
She was invited to play after event organizers learned that Kelly Jo -- who doctors say may only have months to live -- wanted to see her daughter play against the pros once in her lifetime. So Ginn organizers offered a sponsor's exemption, which eventually became a special exemption through the LPGA.
 
'She's a good player now, and she's going to be a really good player,' said Kate Golden, who and Tracy Hanson were the pros in Dakoda's threesome. 'I enjoyed it. She's a good kid. Her parents are great and it was a good experience. I'm so glad she was able to play.'
 
Golden and Hanson even had a bit of fun with Dakoda, giving her a nickname: 'Nubby.'
 
'She was chewing her fingernails for two days straight,' Golden said. 'I said she's going to have to meet people with her elbows, because eventually she was going to chew her arm off.'
 
Dakoda's gallery was the second-largest on the course Friday, an estimated 300 people. Tournament officials said only the superstar-laden trio of Annika Sorenstam, Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer had more people following their round.
 
'It's crazy. Absolutely crazy,' said Mike Dowd, Dakoda's father. 'I think this is great for Dakoda. She does love it. Makes it a lot more fun for her, unlike all those days of practicing with no one around.'
 
And on almost every hole, someone -- often someone Kelly Jo didn't know -- approached her, simply to say hello or give her a hug. 'Thank you for being here,' she would say, before getting back into her cart and being shuttled to the spot where Dakoda would play from next.
 
'I love the crowds,' Kelly Jo said. 'All it means is people are cheering for us and respecting my little girl and wanting us to do well. So I love it. I'm so proud of it.'
 
Dakoda was tied for 53rd after the first round, beating or tying 15 women who've combined to win 33 major championships. Among them: Karrie Webb, Birdie Kim, Jeong Jang, Grace Park, Meg Mallon, Karen Stupples and Hilary Lunke -- all major winners at some point in the last three years.
 
And long after Thursday's round was done, Kelly Jo took Dakoda to work on her driving.
 
Alas, no golf clubs were involved.
 
'We did some mother-daughter bonding,' Kelly Jo said. 'I let her drive the car in a secluded parking lot. She did great. Then we cranked up some music, Pink's 'Stupid Girls,' and just danced right there. And then we went swimming. It was wonderful. We had fun. That's what this week has been about for us.'
 
Dakoda hit a perfect drive to open her second round, straight down the middle and longer than her two pro playing partners. She opened with three straight pars -- prompting whispers among her supporters that maybe, just maybe, she could make the cut.
 
Wishful thinking. Too wishful, actually.
 
Dakoda made three straight bogeys on Nos. 4-6. Another bogey on the ninth pushed her to 6 over for the tournament -- two strokes off the eventual cut line, and she never flirted with it again.
 
She made a double bogey at No. 12, hitting one putt off the green as her mom's head slumped. Another bogey followed at 13, and Dakoda couldn't hide the disappointment on her face as she slowly walked away. Yet when she failed to get out of a greenside bunker on 18, she spun and smiled sheepishly.
 
'It's OK,' one woman yelled.
 
'Don't worry about it,' a man shouted.
 
'You can do it,' added another man.
 
Her next try did get out of the bunker and hit the green. Hanson and Golden both putted out first, leaving one last moment for Dakoda. And when the last putt Kelly Jo's hands went skyward, index fingers raised.
 
Moments later, mother and daughter shared another long embrace. And Dakoda, one day after chiding her mother for crying on the course, broke into sobs.
 
'She made mama's cut today,' Kelly Jo said.
 
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    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.