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Okla. tornado survivor receives trip of a lifetime to Farmers Insurance Open

January 22, 2014

By Doug Milne, PGA TOUR Staff

Jake Reddington (L) with Rickie Fowler during the Farmers Insurance Pro-Am on Jan. 22.

SAN DIEGO- The fact that a 16-year-old kid from Moore, Okla. got to walk inside the ropes with Rickie Fowler Wednesday during his pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open is pretty cool. The fact that he’s walking the planet is nothing shy of remarkable.

Just before 3:00 p.m. on May 20, 2013, Jake Reddington caught wind of inclement weather moving into Moore area.  Hail was the report he heard which resonated in his head.  As the proud owner of a new truck sitting uncovered in the driveway, that was not the forecast he wanted to hear.

With a green light from his mother Sharon, Jake hurried home to get the truck into the garage. Shortly after, he heard what he’ll likely never get out of his head.

“In a matter of seconds, I heard the roof being ripped off by wind like nothing I’d ever heard before,” Reddington recalled. “Pipes were popping and bursting around me right and left. Wood was flying off the house. The entire structure was coming apart right before my eyes.”

Seconds earlier, Reddington had been on the phone with his mother’s fiancé, Kenny Tumblson.

“Kenny told me the weather had taken a huge turn for the worse and that a severe tornado was heading right at me,” Reddington said. “He told me to get into the bath tub and stay put.” Before Jake could take any further instructions, the phone went dead.

With the family’s four dogs, Jake did as he was told.

“When we lost contact, he was in a panic,” said Tumblson.  “I was just five minutes from the house and thought I had time to get there.  When I pulled into the neighborhood, the tornado had just moved out and things looked ok.”

Tumblson could never have imagined how wrong he would be.

“Three blocks away, structures were still standing,” he said. “There were bricks and pieces of wood laying around, but that was about it. Most everything was still intact.”

But when Kenny parked his car two blocks away and began running towards his home, the area in which he had lived for the past two decades wasn’t just a disaster area, it wasn’t recognizable.

“I’d lived on that block for over 20 years and I couldn’t have told you where my house was at that moment. I didn’t think the boy was alive,” Tumblson admitted. ”There was nothing left. I stopped running and just fell to my knees. I truly didn’t think I was going to find him.”

Somehow, they did find him. He and the four dogs were obviously shaken, but unharmed. The EF5 tornado, with winds exceeding 200 mph, had spared them. His beloved new truck was not so fortunate. In fact, most every possession of theirs succumbed to Mother Nature’s wrath. As fate and irony would have it, the life-saving tub, Jake’s golf clubs and Puma hat head cover were literally all that remained.  

That day, the Farmers Insurance disaster response team was on the ground in Moore. Farmers CEO Jeff Dailey was right behind them. After hearing Reddington’s story, Dailey and the Farmers team first took care of business, then took it a step further.

Enter Oklahoma State University’s Rickie Fowler. Sponsored by Farmers, Jake’s story was highlighted to Fowler when Dailey relayed news of the devastation. Fowler wanted in.

“There were about 100 of us at the benefit for my school which Rickie came to,” Reddington said. “We all got new, signed bags. But, they made me go last. When I gave Rickie my bag, he said ‘For you, we’ve got something a little extra special.’ He told me I get to go to Torrey Pines with him and go inside the ropes during the pro-am of the Farmers Insurance Open. I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say.”

“Before we got on the plane this morning, none of this seemed real,” said Sharon Reddington. “But then we got here and walked the course and it was like ‘wow.’ We’ve met some really spectacular people with Farmers. Jeff Dailey coming out to our house after the tornado, with two other CEOs to deliver our check. We felt special, important. And then on top of that for them to do this for us….it’s amazing. This kind of thing just doesn’t happen every day.”

“It always seems like there are some pretty cool outcomes to stories involving disaster,” said Fowler. “For Farmers to be there on the ground from day one helping families was amazing. When they relayed the story to me, it was just cool to be there to brighten him up a bit.”

An admitted Rickie Fowler fanatic, it did more for Jake than a little brightening.

“The experience proved that something positive can come out of a tragic event,” Reddington said. “It’s still hard to cope with, but when you have someone helping like this…going out of his way for a kid from Moore, Okla., it just makes it a little bit better. It gives you something to look forward to every day.”

“You get up, you go out, you dig. You get up, you go out, you dig. You repeat the process,” said Sharon. “But, when people reach out to you it shows you there’s more out there. Even now, months later, people hear our story and are still reaching out. That means so much to us, because they want make a new memory for Jake to replace the old one. It cannot take away that day, but can hopefully pull it a little from the forefront of his mind. “

On the same day - and in the same location the PGA TOUR announced its $2 billion benchmark in charitable giving, it is a pretty cool day for a walk. No, neither Farmers and Rickie Fowler nor the PGA TOUR saved Jake’s life that fateful day last May. A pretty impressive tub did that. Regardless, something here does just seem to go hand in hand for this bewildering, yet majestic stroll.   

“The generosity of Farmers and Rickie Fowler is something there just aren’t words for. It has been beyond amazing. It’s more than we could ever wish for…way more.”

“Who knows,” Fowler pondered. This could turn into a friendship for life.”

Life, indeed.

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