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Parker's Make-A-Wish at The Barclays

August 21, 2014

By Doug Milne, PGA TOUR Staff

PARAMUS, N.J- The inclination is to believe that when you come out swinging, you’re bound to eventually connect. If there’s any merit to that, then eight-year-old Parker Muhleman - who came into the world fighting - has landed the final blow.

When Parker was born on July 6, 2006, he did so with the odds stacked against him. Hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a congenital heart defect, prevents the left side of the heart from fully developing, affecting such structures as the left ventricle and aorta. In short, Parker was born with half of a functioning heart.

At four days old, Parker underwent his first open-heart surgery. Six months later, the procedure was repeated and, just before his third birthday, doctors went back into Parker’s chest for a third time. Even though the surgeries were corrective, with nothing to ever “fix,” that third surgery appeared to be the last, opening the door for Parker to embark into a world of firsts.

Just after his third birthday, Parker first discovered the game of golf, got his first set of clubs and was, as described by parents David and Stephanie, “hooked for life.” 

When Make-A-Wish caught wind of Parker’s story, the organization stepped up with their offering.

“We had no idea what to choose,” David said. “We looked all over the internet and YouTube, watching a bunch of the things other recipients have done through Make-A-Wish. We came across something with the PGA TOUR and, all of a sudden, that was it. He said, ‘That’s what I want for my wish.’”

Living outside of Pittsburgh, Parker’s parents had taken him to watch area tournaments on the Tour and Champions Tour. Never, however, had he been to a PGA TOUR event. 

This week, that changed.

With a yellow pin flag tucked between his arm and delicate upper body, Parker stood around the perimeter of the scoring area at the Barclays Tuesday like a singular word in the some tale of the world’s promise. The signature of dozens of this week’s competitors had made their way onto the evidence of his whereabouts.

Through arrangements made by the PGA TOUR, Parker and his father were taken into the players’ locker room Tuesday afternoon, where he was led to a locker of his very own, resplendent with name tag outside and goodie bag inside.

As Jason Day looked on from mere feet away, Parker was given a spot on the range, complete with a set of clubs, to beat balls. Another first for the kid who came out swinging. Clad in wrap-around sunglasses, the ultimate solace for Parker seemed to come not from what he did, but what he drew in.

“He just loves watching these TOUR players,” David said. “We were up there by the putting green and he just loved sitting there and watching them, quietly….just observing what they were doing, practicing.”

During Wednesday’s pro-am, Parker was granted another first. 2010 U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell pulled the unsuspecting eight-year-old from the gallery inside the ropes to walk a few holes along and even showcase a game he began playing five years earlier.  

“This is always nice to do when you get this opportunity. It speaks to the PGA TOUR and what they do,” McDowell said. “The TOUR likely leads the way in all sports when it comes to charitable donations and giving. It’s a special game from that point of view, as it allows us to raise a lot of funds for our chosen charities.”

When Parker left The Ridgewood Country Club Wednesday, he assured Graeme he’d be back Friday and through the weekend. With him was a head swimming with fresh memories and a heart full with new dreams.  
“It’s always a lot of fun to meet these kids and see the smiles on their faces,” McDowell said. “It really puts golf into perspective. Three-putting doesn’t really become quite as life-threatening as it feels when you look around and realize how fortunate you are.”

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