Golf tournaments are one of the best ways for charitable organizations to raise a significant amount of money in a relatively short period of time. This has been true for many years and it will be true for many more. As a PGA Professional I, just like many thousands of my peers, have the opportunity every year to host dozens of these events at our respective golf courses. We see the hard work that the committees put into organizing a great event and do our part to make sure that the tournament is a success.
Last Monday was the 2014 Ranken Jordan golf tournament and I had the privilege of playing in the event for the third straight year. Just as with last year's event, I had the good fortune to be part of a group that featured Ranken Jordan's CEO Lauri Tanner and former Ranken Jordan patient Sam Ward. Each year Sam comes back to play in the tournament and each year everybody is amazed at his golf game. Well struck drives seemed to always find the short grass and his iron shots regularly gave us a good look at birdie. I can say with great certainty that our group was very excited that he putts as well as he does! Golf has played a very significant role in Sam's life (learn more about Sam's story by clicking HERE to watch a short video) just as it has with another former patient, Cooper Burks, who was in the spotlight at this year's tournament.
Cooper came to Ranken Jordan for the first time in 2012. A self-proclaimed sports nut, when he came to Ranken Jordan for therapy following one of his 17 hip surgeries, Cooper was bummed because he did not think he would be able to play sports. Of course, when he got there he did not know about the junior golf program. After his first day of golf Cooper was hooked! Swinging from his wheelchair Cooper quickly showed that he was a natural! Swing after swing led to crisp iron shots and launched drivers. Cooper and his family quickly learned that golf was going to be his sport.
Since that initial introduction to golf Cooper's love for the sport has continued to grow. While at Ranken Jordan we had him hitting golf balls from his hospital bed, wheelchair, using his walker, and without any aid at all. After walking out of Ranken Jordan last December and returning home, he kept working on his game and showed off his swing on the driving range before last Monday's tournament. Everyone who watched Cooper practice was simply amazed by how consistently he hit the ball . . . and by the fact that his ever present smile never left his face. Ranken Jordan put together a video about Cooper which I highly encourage you to watch by clicking HERE.
Spend any time at all with Cooper and you will quickly realize that his smile never goes away. You will also learn that he loves sports, Auburn University, and Duck Dynasty. His incredible attitude and outlook on life make you forget that he is 10 years old. He comes by it honestly, though. Anyone who has the opportunity to spend time with his parents and siblings will understand what a special family Cooper is part of.
Stories like this are why I go to Ranken Jordan every week and why I treasure the time I am so fortunate to spend there with the kids. Having the opportunity to share a game I love with the kids at Ranken Jordan and use it in a way to positively impact their lives is simply incredible. Most of the time they think that I am teaching them something when in reality they are the ones doling out the lessons to me. On multiple occasions, during conversations, via e-mail, or in text messages, Cooper and his family have told me "thank you" for what I have done for them. In fact I should be the one thanking them for allowing me to be a part of his journey. Cooper is a never-ending source of inspiration and someday, when I finally grow up, I hope to be just like him.