A Real Roller Coaster

By Randall MellMay 7, 2009, 4:00 pm
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The Players
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Brad Adamonis father wasnt supposed to be here.
 
Dave Adamonis wasnt supposed to be choking up and near tears watching his son tee it up Thursday at The Players Championship.
 
Brad Adamonis had plenty of reasons to smile on Thursday. (Getty Images)
Brad knows because he was there four years ago when a priest gave his father last rites at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
 
Brad was there again when his father got up off his death bed and wept in a window at his first sight of blue skies and palm trees.
 
Though Adamonis was pleased shooting 5-under-par 67 in the first round of his first appearance at The Players Championship, he wasnt awed, even when his name briefly reached the top of the leaderboard. Hes awed when he looks outside the ropes and sees his dad there.
 
My fathers been given last rites three times, Adamonis said.
 
People keep telling Adamonis, 36, that his fathers going to die, and his father keeps defying the odds, though those odds are frighteningly more formidable this week.
 
Seven days ago, Dave Adamonis was informed by doctors at Massachusetts General that he has an advanced stage of lung cancer, a stage that typically people dont survive with for more than a year, though doctors have assured him that nobodys the same and anythings possible.
 
Nobody knows that better than the Adamonis family.
 
This is the fourth form of cancer Brads father has had to fight in four years.
 
Doctors have told me theres no logical reason Im still alive, Dave said.
 
Dave, 62, has waged war with prostate cancer, lymphoma, throat cancer and now a second bout with lung cancer.
 
This time it isnt a very good forecast, Dave said. But Im going to treat it like every other challenge. Ive never quit at anything in my life. Ive always had a positive outlook on life. Its my makeup. Were going to go one day at a time, just like golf. You play a shot at a time, you take the good with the bad.
 
A long-time school teacher in Rhode Island, Dave Adamonis made his name in golf in that state establishing the Challenge Cup, a popular junior golf program. He would make his name in college golf in South Florida as executive director of the Johnson & Wales Golf Management program, where hes also the golf coach of an NAIA powerhouse.
 
Daves a bulldog and a fighter, said John Adamonis, Daves younger brother, who walked the course Thursday. He doesnt want any sympathy.
 
The Adamonis family is out in force at the TPC at Sawgrass Stadium Course this week, not just to support Brad, but to rally around Dave as he prepares to step up his battle with cancer. Dave will begin yet another round of chemotherapy treatments in three weeks. Brads mother, Roberta, is here. So is Brads wife, Stacey, and the couples two young children.
 
Dave walked the first 12 holes Thursday, but he became breathless and needed help. A tournament official found a cart for him to ride in over the final six holes.
 
I like my dad being here, said Brad, whose best finish in a PGA Tour event was a tie for second after losing a playoff to Kenny Perry at the John Deere Classic last year. I know he likes being out here.
 
Brad showed some of his dads fight and perseverance just getting to the PGA Tour. He struggled through rough times on mini-tours before finally climbing through the Nationwide Tour ranks to qualify as a PGA Tour rookie as a 35-year-old last year. Brad and his wife lived with Brads parents in Hallandale Beach, Fla., until January of this year, when they bought their first home in nearby Coral Springs.
 
Brads PGA Tour breakthrough was a story of an entire familys sacrifice.
 
Its a story about how golfs best played as a team sport.
 
The family's story of perseverance begins with Daves hospital visit in 2005.
 
After being diagnosed with prostate cancer, Dave underwent surgery, but complications after the procedure nearly killed him. He swelled from head to toe when urine began backing up into his body like poison. Kidney failure followed. Thats the first time a priest was called in to give him last rites.
 
While Dave survived, all hell broke loose during his hospital stay. What was supposed to be a five-day stay turned into three months. Doctors discovered he also had lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, and that he had throat cancer. He was fully engaged in a fight with three cancers.
 
In January of 06, Dave checked into Massachusetts General, back near his New England home. He endured 33 radiation treatments for his throat cancer. He endured two forms of chemotherapy, one for lymphoma and another for the throat cancer.
 
What saved him?
 
My will to stay alive, Dave said.
 
With Dave focused on recovery, with his wife, Roberta, setting up her home at Daves hospital bedside, Brad quit playing tournament golf near the end of 06. He and his brother, Dave Jr., took over coaching the Johnson & Wales team to keep their fathers fledgling program going.
 
To their delight, Dave recovered, regaining his weight and strength and old vigor, but a year ago the fight was fully engaged again. Dave was diagnosed with lung cancer in August of last year and doctors removed a portion of his right lung. Dave seemed to be fighting his way back yet again, until last week, when a biopsy revealed more cancer in his lungs.
 
On Saturday morning, Brad shared the bad news with Stacey.
 
We shed some tears, Stacey said. Weve been on a real roller coaster.
 
Stacey worries because she knows how tight the bond is between Brad and his father, and how much Brad relies on his father.
 
Its what made Brads run with the family together on Thursday so emotional.
 
Its a very special day, Dave said, his voice cracking as his son signed his scorecard. It didnt make any difference what Brad shot. Its just special to be here.
 

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