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PGA TOUR players visit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

June 5, 2014

By Kelly Barnes, PGA TOUR Staff

MEMPHIS- PGA TOUR players spend a lot of time practicing their putting at courses all over the world. Rarely, however, do their practice grounds include astroturf, water hazards and rubber duckys. But then again, Tuesday of the FedEx St. Jude Classic was hardly the average day on TOUR.

For one afternoon, Gonzalo Fdez-Castano, Roberto Castro, Stewart Cink, Ben Crane and Kevin Streelman traded in their plush practice greens for a putt-putt course to give lessons to a few real stars – the children of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The visit is an annual tradition that takes place during the FedEx St. Jude Classic and connects PGA TOUR players with patients of all ages from the Hospital. The children play mini golf, get their faces painted, eat cookies and most importantly, get to be a kid for a minute. 

For the golfers, it’s a day of perspective, because today the putts don’t matter. Today, it’s all for the kids.

Instead of the golfers drawing the attention inside the ropes, it’s the kids. The parents, friends, doctors and nurses standing outside the ropes are fixated on the children, holding their breath as the kids narrowly miss hitting a PGA TOUR pro with their backswing, and letting out collective cheers as putts go in.

The day is full of laughter, smiles and the greatest hole-in-ones these pros have ever seen.

 “Being able to come and see what these kids are going through, and be able to encourage them, keep going and take their mind off what they face every day, even just for a short period of time, is a blessing,” said Ben Crane.  

Crane served as caddie for his new friend Taylor, a St. Jude patient, who was challenged to a putting competition by Stewart Cink. Crane helped Taylor read the putt and keep score against Crane. The two ended up tied after three putts, but it certainly felt like a win for everyone.

“To see the kids disengage from their normal day, which isn’t probably all that great, to get them to come out here and smile a little bit and be free and have some fun, it just means a lot to be a part of that too,” Cink said.

On the other side of the room, Kevin Streelman connected with a little girl similar in age to his own daughter. As Streelman handed her a signed hat, the eight-month-old instead reached for the one on his head. Acting as any experienced father of an eight-month-old would do, he pulled the hat off his head without missing a beat. A special note of encouragement was written on the hat and photos were taken to commemorate a moment that she may never remember, but one he’ll never forget.

Streelman held back tears as he reflected on the day, “I’ve been here several times before, but being here for the first time as a father, it is very moving. It can really give one perspective of the priorities in their life.”

As Streelman and the others can testify, this was not by any means the average day on TOUR. It was so much more.

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