Courtesy St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Upon landing in Memphis, PGA Tour pro golfer Collin Morikawa made a special stop to connect with five patients from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, some of whom are talented golfers.
Morikawa’s generosity provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for St. Jude kids to learn from one of the best in the sport before his appearance at the 2022 FedEx St. Jude Championship, Aug. 10-14, where 125 of the world’s best PGA Tour golfers competed for the FedEx Cup trophy.
During the St. Jude Golf in the Park event on Aug. 8, skill levels varied as much as patient ages, but one special St. Jude patient, Azalea, 8, came in well under par in the category of most competitive. When Azalea, who was treated for rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer, struggled to find all the power she needed to drive the ball like Morikawa – her competitive side kicked in and teed Morikawa up for a new challenge, a dance contest.
Morikawa, who did not miss a beat or a putt all day, stepped up to the challenge and even promised a second dance contest the next time he visits Memphis.
The well-rounded group of St. Jude kids provided lots of entertainment and competitive putting and chipping. But with the dance contest taking center stage, St. Jude patient Reynaldo, 18, might be a challenge for next time. A video dance celebration was his creative way to mark his last day of chemotherapy. Reynaldo studied choreography and participated in dance groups in his native Puerto Rico before being diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma.
On this day, he stood in awe with joy on his face when seeing and hearing the power of Morikawa’s powerful drive.
In addition, several St. Jude patients who participated in the session are excellent golfers, including Cross, 18, a two-time cancer survivor who later participated in the Pro Am with PGA Tour golfer J.J. Spaun and recently accepted a golf scholarship to Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo.
St. Jude patient Dakota, 16, who carded his first hole-in-one just two years ago and only a few months out of treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia was also in on the fun, while Bailey, 17, who was treated for osteosarcoma, a bone tumor, is not only a fan of golf, but his artwork adorned FootJoy custom shoes that were worn by nearly 30 athletes during the 2019 PGA Tour stop in Memphis.
This year’s FedEx St. Jude Championship winner, Will Zalatoris, wore the 2022 patient art FootJoy shoes as he claimed a dramatic playoff victory at TPC Southwind.
The FedEx St. Jude Championship is one of many special events that happen throughout the year benefiting the lifesaving mission of St. Jude: Finding cures. Saving children.Because of events like this and generous donors, families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food so they can focus on helping their child live.
For additional information and images, visit stjude.org/pgatour.