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
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  • Full Coverage - Ginn Clubs & Resorts Open
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    Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

    ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

    The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

    Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

    ''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

    The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

    Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

    Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

    ''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

    Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

    First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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    Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

    Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

    Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    “Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

    Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

    “I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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    Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

    Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

    “I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

    “We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

    Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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    Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

    This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

    Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

    “My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

    Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

    “Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”