NORTH PLAINS — All sports are physically taxing, and 18 holes of golf can be a grind. Times that by eight and you have one day of golf for 73-year-old Gay Davis.
On Wednesday, Davis began a quest to complete 144 holes (eight rounds) for the annual Golf for Joy fundraiser, a benefit for the Children's Cancer Association.
Although thunder and lightning limited him to 131 holes (seven rounds plus five holes), he still managed to surpass last year's total of 102 holes and achieve his number-one priority, helping others.
The idea for the event came to Davis nine years ago when he was 65. He was reading James Dodson's book, "Final Rounds: A Father, A Son, The Golf Journey Of A Lifetime" about a son taking his dying father to Scotland to play his final rounds of golf, and it really stuck with him.
"(Dodson's) dying father, kind of a wise, old sage, said, 'Life is full of sorrow. It's up to us to provide the joy,'" Davis said. "I never thought about that because all I've had is joy. I've never had any real sorrow. I've been very lucky."
Davis' good fortune motivated him to use his life to create joy for others, beginning with the inaugural Golf for Joy at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in 2010.
What started as one man golfing six rounds and raising $85,000 has grown to a three-day event that includes Davis's marathon of golf, a professional-amateur tournament, a CCA kids' golf-appreciation clinic, a live and silent auction, a dinner and an awards ceremony. This year, organizers expect to raise $553,000.
Davis, a multiple marathon runner, commenced his marathon of golf around 4:45 a.m. He finished his fourth round by lunchtime and took a break to take in the pro-am award ceremony. When he retook the course, he was looking to accomplish the last four rounds by sundown, with no golf cart and no gallery on the course (the pro-am golfers, who were offering cheers and support, had left for home).
Those who know him well had confidence in him.
"He knows this course so well he could probably play it with his eyes closed," said Matthew Blake, director of golf at Pumpkin Ridge. "It's gonna be the length at the end of the day."
Around 5 p.m., however, the blue skies turned gray and brought thunder, lightning and rain. Nevertheless, Davis persisted, thanks to his newly arrived squad of cheerleaders, his family.
"Those kids inspire you so much, they take your mind off the pain," Davis said. "In the middle there, after the pro-am was over, it was one guy walking around the golf course by himself. Here, with all these kids around, it was really fun. It takes your mind off it."
His wife, two daughters, two sons-in-law, four grandchildren, friends and caddy were there to clap and yell after every hole. When the lightning got too close, they took a break for dinner.
Following the brief rest, which included a turkey club sandwich and a Coke, Davis returned to the green.
With lightning and thunder expected to return, Davis decided to make up time by running from hole to hole. His caddy, Andy VanLaningham, and daughter Annie Usher helped him speed up the process by having clubs ready at every stroke.
With the weather not letting up and darkness falling, Davis and his loyal cheering section decided to call it a night at 7:50 p.m.
"I'm disappointed I didn't get to do all 144, but if you told me 131, I would have been OK, because I have a sore back and got a blister three or four rounds into it," Davis said.
What Davis accomplished on Wednesday cannot be underestimated.
What is important is what inspires others.
For example, John Grothe, head golf professional at Willamette Valley Country Club, was so inspired by Davis three years ago that he started his own golf marathon at WVCC, golfing 100 holes for charity. (He, however, used a golf cart.)
"The day after I played I could barely walk," Grothe said. "I can only imagine how he's going to be feeling tomorrow. I cannot be rooting for him more."
With the foundation raising over $1.8 million for CCA, due to Davis' dream, Davis' goal of $600,000 in one year seems to be just around the corner.
"I don't put anything past Gay Davis to accomplish," Grothe said. "Anything he sets his mind to is going to happen."
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