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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    Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy

    By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 1:38 pm

    Last season Brooks Koepka bagged a pair of majors en route to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award. He started the new wraparound season with an emphatic win at the CJ Cup to reach world No. 1 for the first time.

    But amid the best form of his career, Koepka has a simple goal in mind as he gets ready to turn his attention to the new year.

    "Stay healthy," Koepka told reporters. "That's been the big thing. I need to be healthy to be able to play all these events, play all the majors."

    Koepka's breakthrough year comes despite the fact that he missed four months in the spring, including the Masters, while recovering from a wrist injury. He hit the ground running once he returned, with strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial preceding wins at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

    Now Koepka has added a third trophy after cruising to a four-shot win in South Korea on Sunday that allowed him to move past Dustin Johnson at world No. 1.

    "I'm 1-for-1 this year, which is nice," Koepka joked about his undefeated record in the new wraparound season.

    Koepka will be in the field next week in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions before putting the clubs on the shelf. With Justin Thomas paving the way by making the goal-setting process more public in recent years, Koepka explained that even after summiting the world rankings he plans to wait until 2019 to adjust his expectations for himself.

    "I keep the same goals through the calendar year," Koepka said. "On Jan. 1 I go to the beach in the morning and go write down my goals and figure them out for the calendar year, but I just need to finish this year off. I've got next week and I would like to, coming out the first week as No. 1, I'd like to play well."

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    Birdie binge for Woodland comes up short at CJ Cup

    By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 12:52 pm

    Gary Woodland mounted an impressive rally at the CJ Cup, but in the end even 11 birdies weren't enough to catch Brooks Koepka.

    Woodland started the final round in South Korea five shots behind the new world No. 1, but he made the biggest move of the day amid chilly conditions on Jeju Island. With six birdies over his first nine holes, including four in a row on Nos. 6-9, he briefly caught Koepka at the top of the leaderboard.

    But Woodland bogeyed No. 10, and even with five more birdies coming home to finish a 9-under 63 he still finished alone in second, four shots behind Koepka who closed with a bogey-free 29 to put the trophy out of reach.

    "Yesterday I didn't get any putts to go in, and today I saw a lot of putts go in," Woodland told reporters. "Brooks with the lead, not much fazes him. So you knew you had to make a lot of birdies, and I made a lot today. But I was just too far behind."

    It's the second straight strong performance from Woodland to start the new wraparound season, as he tied for fifth at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia after holding a share of the 54-hole lead. A closing 63 would have gone a long way last week, but he was still pleased to be able to make Koepka sweat a little on a day when even the bad holes resulted from good shots.

    "I made two bogeys on the back and I said, 'Be right' on both shots," Woodland said. "I was just maybe a little too amped up, a little excited. I hit them both perfect. All in all, I would have liked for a couple more putts to go in yesterday and been a little closer going into today."

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    Kang (69) wins Buick LPGA Shanghai by two

    By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:11 am

    SHANGHAI - Danielle Kang shot a 3-under 69 on Sunday to win the LPGA Shanghai by two strokes for her second career title.

    Kang, who started the final round one stroke off the lead, offset a lone bogey on the par-5 fourth hole with four birdies after the turn to finish at 13-under 275 and hold off a late charge by Lydia Ko, who had the day's lowest score of 66.

    ''I hope I win more,'' Kang said. ''I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.''

    Ko, who had seven birdies and a lone bogey, tied for second at 11 under with a group of seven players that included Brittany Altomare (71), Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and overnight co-leader Sei Young Kim (72).


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    Carlota Ciganda, who also held a share of the lead after the third round, shot a 73 to fall into a tie for ninth with Bronte Law and local favorite Lu Liu.

    Paula Creamer carded three birdies against a pair of bogeys for a 71 to finish in sole possession of 12th place.

    The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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    New world No. 1 Koepka already wants more

    By Nick MentaOctober 21, 2018, 8:48 am

    If there is a knock on Brooks Koepka, it’s that he’s a little too cool.

    Gary Woodland, who threw 11 birdies at Koepka on Sunday and still finished four shots back, inadvertently captured that exact sentiment after Saturday's third round.

    “You know," he said, "Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much."

    In context, Woodland meant that there was little anyone in the field could do to rattle the 54-hole leader. (He proved himself right, by the way.)

    And out of context, the comment speaks to the general narrative surrounding Koepka. That he’s just detached enough for fans to have trouble attaching themselves to him. That he’s just a jock here to cash checks and collect trophies, to kick ass and chew bubblegum.

    But for a few moments Sunday in South Korea, it became clear that Brooks Koepka does care. Crouched on the 72nd green with some time to stop and think as Ian Poulter lagged a bit behind, Koepka finally let a moment get to him. Cameras caught the three-time major champion appearing unusually emotional.

    Of course, less than a minute later, those same cameras caught him yawning. The contrast was almost too perfect. It was as if he knew he had just been found out and needed to snap back into character – which he did.

    He promptly poured in an eagle putt to cap off a final-round 64, to win the CJ Cup by four, and to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.


    Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

    CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


    “To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid,” Koepka said on the 18th green, moments after closing out his fifth PGA Tour victory and third this year. “I don't think this one's going to sink in.”

    What is beginning to sink in is that Koepka now unequivocally belongs in the conversation, the one golf fans and analysts have been having over and over since Tiger Woods fell from golf's greatest heights.

    Who’s the best at their best?

    In the two years between his first PGA Tour win and his first U.S. Open victory, Koepka was touted as having the kind of talent to compete with the game's elites. It took him a little while for him to get here, but Koepka has taken over as the latest player to look like he’ll never lose again. Just as it was for Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas before him, this is Koepka's moment. This is his run of dominance.

    It’s a run that will have to end at some point. Every one of the guys just mentioned did cool off eventually. Koepka will, too. Maybe it will be fatigue, maybe it will be injury, and maybe it’ll just be golf. This talent pool is simply too deep for anyone to remain on top for too long.

    But what Koepka has done this year – in defending his U.S. Open title, in staring down Tiger at the PGA, in claiming the Player of the Year Award, in ascending to the top of the world rankings – is put his name at the forefront of the conversation. If he was unappreciated at times before, those days are behind him. He's already accomplished too much, proven himself too good, to be overlooked any longer.

    And he’s far from done.

    “For me, I just need to keep winning,” the new world No. 1 said Sunday. “I feel like to win a few more regular Tour events and then keep adding majors. I feel like my game's set up for that. I've gotten so much confidence off winning those majors where, it's incredible, every time I tee it up, I feel like I really have a good chance to win whether I have my A-game or not. It's something I'm so excited [about] right now, you have no idea. I just can't wait to go play again.”