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
  • Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

    Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

    With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

    Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

    The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

    Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

    In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

    Getty Images

    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

    Getty Images

    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.