Dream Day for Dakoda and Mom

By Associated PressApril 27, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 Ginn OpenREUNION, Fla. -- Dakoda Dowd watched her golf ball take flight, then walked toward her terminally ill mother.
The 13-year-old gave her a hug and said simply, 'Mom, don't cry.'
Dakoda Dowd
Dakoda Dowd gets support from her caddie/coach in Thursday's first round.
'I don't get how women cry when they are happy,' Dakoda said later. 'Who cries when they are happy?'
With that, the tears stopped, and a day the family will forever cherish began.
Dakoda, a golf phenom from Palm Harbor, Fla., competed Thursday in the LPGA Ginn Clubs & Resorts Open -- her first women's professional event.

Her mission was not to win, but to make a memory for her mother. And on that count, Kelly Jo couldn't have been more pleased.
'Fantabulous,' Kelly Jo Dowd said. 'I have to make up my own vocabulary to describe it.'
Tournament organizers whose organizers extended the invitation to play after hearing of the family's plight. Dakoda finished the day with a 2-over-par 74 (See Card), nine shots behind leader Cristie Kerr.
'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.
'She wasn't nervous at all,' said Kristi Dowd, Dakoda's 20-year-old half-sister, who was among the flock of family and friends wearing pink-trimmed hats and visors with 'KJ' stitched on the side. 'I'm more nervous than she is. She's always like that. It's a blessing, for sure. It's a dream come true.'
Kelly Jo, who was shuttled from hole to hole in a cart but stood along the rope line to see every one of Dakoda's shots, spent much of the day with her hands clasped in front of her, often bowing her head and closing her eyes before her daughter would hit the ball.
She often shouted, 'Good shot, 'Koda.'
She pumped both fists over her head when things went well.
She clapped softly when they didn't.
By the seventh hole, she felt so good that she leaned into a television camera's lens and began singing, then announced she was inviting everyone out for dancing that evening.
'I was pretty overwhelmed,' Kelly Jo said. 'We've been waiting for this opportunity for a long time.'
Through the attention generated here, the Dowd family hopes to raise cancer awareness and encourage women to be diligent in getting checked -- something Kelly Jo acknowledges that she did not do, instead waiting nearly a year before getting the breast lump that turned out to be cancerous examined by doctors.
Kelly Jo said countless strangers have approached her in the past few weeks, offering kind words and encouragement.
'It's just all super surreal,' said Dakoda, who is three years older than Beverly Klass was when she made her LPGA debut as a 10-year-old in 1967.
Even with the likes of Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Natalie Gulbis, Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel -- some of the most popular players -- in the field, Dowd garnered much attention. Cameras have followed her all week, did again Thursday, and will be back Friday.
Laura Diaz, who shot 67, was one group behind Dakoda and came away impressed.
'You know, they are dealing with real-life issues and we're out there trying to get a white ball in the hole,' Diaz said. 'So it kind of makes you think that a bogey is not that bad. I really feel for them and I'm so proud of Dakoda. ... She's the cutest little girl.'
Someday, Dakoda hopes she's a mainstay on LPGA leaderboards. Yet she still isn't expecting a Cinderella-esque run, even after finishing two shots behind world No. 1 Sorenstam and one shot better than Karrie Webb, who won the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the season's first major.
'There is no way I'm going to think about that,' Dakoda said. 'I'm just here to have a great time and whatever happens happens. But this is just an amazing experience, no matter what.'
Related Links
  • Scorecard - Dakoda Dowd
  • Leaderboard - Ginn Clubs & Resorts Open
  • TGC Airtimes
  • Full Coverage - Ginn Clubs & Resorts Open
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.