D.J. Gregory is going to another PGA TOUR event this week in New Orleans. He will watch another player and tell another story. He will walk every hole of every round at the Zurich Classic, just as he has done the previous 12 tournaments, and will do the next 24 tournaments until his amazing journey ends at the Tour Championship.
Gregory carries a handicap of 36, the highest possible.
He also carries a cane.
Gregory, 30, has cerebral palsy, which he refers to more as an inconvenience than an ailment. He was given little hope of ever walking across the living room, much less up the 18th fairway at Riviera.
I can do everything anyone else can do, he said. Just a little slower.
To prove his point, and to inspire others with a physical handicap, Gregory wants to walk every hole on the PGA TOUR this year. He picks one player to follow at every tournament and writes a blog for the PGA TOUR that is more about players than his own struggles. Gregory already has walked more that 250 miles, from the mountainous terrain of Kapalua to the high desert of Arizona.
Its pretty incredible, said Heath Slocum, whom Gregory followed for 72 holes over five days at Doral.
Gregory was born 10 weeks premature. When oxygen was pumped into his collapsed lungs, the pressure caused blood vessels to burst in his legs, and they grew so curved that his feet pointed out at a 90-degree angle.
Anyone could see this child was different because of his legs.
His father knew he was different because of his heart.
He had to drag himself around the house on his arms, Don Gregory said from their home in Savannah, Ga. Anywhere he wanted to get to, he would go. He wouldnt stop and cry, and he wouldnt ask for help.
Doctors wanted to put him in a wheelchair, but his father thought that would crush the boys spirit. What followed was a series of operations in which his legs were cut and twisted so his feet would point in the right direction.
Gregory did nothing in a hurry. He started out on a walker with four wheels, then two wheels. He graduated to two canes, and now uses a single cane to steady himself. Each step brings a mixture of labor and joy. Its almost as if he wills himself forward, his legs stiff, upper body rocking from side to side.
I dont really walk, he said. I like to call it a wobble. As youve probably noticed, I dont walk in straight lines. I just cant do it.
But he hasnt missed a shot.
Gregory not only has logged his miles on the golf course, but how often he falls'13 times through Doral. He was flat on his face on the curb at Pebble Beach, drawing gasps from spectators who took pity on him until Gregory got up, dusted himself off, and kept wobbling along with a smile on his face.
I laugh at myself every time, he said. The worst was at the Bob Hope. I tripped over some TV cables twice in 30 seconds.
His father joins him at most tournaments, although Gregory has no shortage of friends to fill in. He still brags about having eight women as roommates at Springfield (Mass.) College'four of them on the basketball team. He was the teams administrative assistant.
How he even got to college is another amazing chapter on determination.
His father graduated from Springfield and is on the board of trustees. He was going through the mail at dinner one night when he came across an envelope from the college addressed to Don Gregory.
My son goes by D.J., the father said. It was an application for admission, and I said, Why would they send this to me?
D.J. took the letter and filled out the application. Six years later, he had bachelors and masters degrees in sports management.
Gregory was 12 when his father took him to the 1990 Greater Greensboro Open, where Steve Elkington won for the first time on the PGA TOUR. Gregory was trying to fill his hat with autographs when CBS Sports analyst Ken Venturi came by in a cart, signed his cap and invited him to join Jim Nantz in the tower.
I just took a liking to him, Venturi said.
The relationships formed that afternoon went a long way.
Gregory began going to a half-dozen tour events each year, which led him to dream of walking every hole of every tournament. He drew up a business plan and e-mailed it to Nantz, who made sure it got to PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem. The tour signed off on the idea and invited Gregory to two straight playoff events last year as a trial run, wanting to make sure he had the stamina.
Gregory hopes to write a book next year about places he went and people he met. All these players have a great story to tell, Gregory said, overlooking the fact that he does, too. He now works with United Cerebral Palsy to help raise awareness.
The reaction is more than I ever would have guessed, he said.
Slocum finished last among 77 players at the CA Championship, so there wasnt much of a gallery. Gregory had a good view, and so did Slocum. He couldnt help but notice the number of fans who approached Gregory to shake his hand, and he heard one woman tell Gregory about her son coping with cerebral palsy.
He makes a bad day a lot easier to swallow, Slocum said. Its pretty inspiring.
Because of the rain delays, Slocum finished in the last group on the ninth hole of the Blue Monster. That meant Gregorys week ended about the same time Tiger Woods walked off the 18th green with a par, ending a winning streak that had captivated golf for six months.
By years end, Gregorys streak might prove far more impressive.