What could have been a short golf trip turned into 100 courses in 100 days, as the 57 year old Bostonian Dave Blakelock recognized the opportunity to do something big. In honor of his mother with Alzheimer’s and his mother-in-law who passed away from Alzheimer’s in July of 2018, Dave decided to plan a golf trip to raise awareness and donations for Alzheimer’s—a golf trip that consisted of 100 courses in 100 days, starting in California on March 14th and ending in Massachusetts on June 21st. Committing to the challenge on a whim, he was unaware of the impact it would make on his life and the lives of those around him.
On July 12th, after partnering with him throughout the tour—managing his donations so he could focus on the golf—we sat down with Dave for an interview to recap his 100 course journey, recounting the unexpected emotional turns that transformed the experience from not only an act of advocacy to also an act of healing.
With a laugh, Dave, who considered himself an average golfer, explained how 100 rounds of golf could be a golfer’s dream or worst nightmare. When Dave had shown his mother, Dorothy “Dot” Jardine, the golf tour map, she smiled, telling him he was crazy—which he agrees with. However, any concern about becoming stir crazy and wanting to go home was silenced by the development of a routine he grew fond of. Waking up, going to play a round of golf, traveling to a new town, and checking into a new hotel, became his life.
That was until his mother was in hospice, and Dave found out she was nearing the end. When he went home for three days, his mother asked, “Why aren’t you out golfing?” He battled as to whether or not he should leave her side.
On April 15th, Dave was playing in San Antonio, with his best friend and brother, when they received the unexpected phone call. His mother had passed away. On the third hole of the course, the three of them each played a purple golf ball, in honor of her. When the round was over, they sat in the clubhouse and paid their respects.
Since the beginning of the tour, on the third hole of every course, Dave played a purple ball in honor of someone who has or had Alzheimer’s. What he did not expect was how much the purple golf ball would resonate and connect the loved ones of those who were diagnosed.
From playing at some fantastic courses to hanging out around the gulf coast, Dave could not stop talking about the people he met, with admiration in his eyes and a reminiscent smile. He received a lot of support from TeeOff by PGA Tour, GolfTec, Callaway Golf Company, Troon, and us, as well as individuals. Upon establishing this tour, he gave people the option to play with him. People travelled from all over—everyone from former UPS drivers to CEO’s, from blue collar to white collar, high school friends, members of his Union College community, colleagues, golfers he had never met before, and even someone he had known since first grade! As he hosted, he would talk about everything from sports to politics as they developed connections through solidarity. These people understood and sympathized. As Dave recounted stories with us, he was humble and careful with his words, eager to describe each moment in a meaningful way.
Dave first described a woman he had met whose aunt and grandmother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He played a purple ball for each of them. Later in the tour, when he arrived in Tucson, he recalled that one of the woman’s family members lived nearby and asked her permission to give the two purple balls to them. Handing the two purple golf balls to the woman’s father was a moment Dave would never forget.
Another time, Dave randomly struck up a conversation with a woman at the office of the club that he was playing. She mentioned how she had a family member with Alzheimer’s. When he asked if he could play the purple ball for her family member, the woman started to cry. He gave the ball to her after finishing the course.
On the 98th day, it turned out that the man who signed up to play with him requested that his mom and dad join. The man’s dad was 95 years old and had Alzheimer’s. His son and Dave were able to get him to play some holes. At first, he needed a bit of direction, but, by the third hole he played, muscle memory kicked in and he was able to hit the ball 140 yards. The man’s dad had a big smile on his face.
When Dave was alone on the course, he would use the quiet time he had to reflect on his mother’s life and the relationship he had with her. And whether or not he realized it, Dave probably used the tour to cope, putting his efforts towards looking at the positive, his contributions to Alzheimer’s awareness while doing something he loves.
The end of the tour in Plymouth, Massachusetts felt surreal to Dave, feeling odd that the humbling experience had come to a close. However, his touching anecdotes and raw emotion proved ambition to gain support is never really over—as Alzheimer’s still continues to affect the 6 million diagnosed, and 16 million who care for them, in the US.
It was important for Dave to have those who heard about the tour to also understand the impact Alzheimer’s has on the lives of the loved ones too. Coining the term “Purple Ball Army,” he expressed his ongoing dedication to the cause—as he brainstorms ideas for future small tournaments and ways to continue to raise support. “Okay, now what do I do?” he reflected, still processing his experience. “Did I really do that?”
Ever since his 100 days 100 courses tour, Dave Blakelock still chooses to play a purple golf ball on the third hole, in tribute to the love and support for Alzheimer’s advocacy.
If you are interested in supporting the cause, please visit this page: https://hub.givinga.com/campaigns/view/1312