It has been more than a year since Gordon Dunlop’s mother died of kidney cancer, but last week he felt her by his side once again.
The Father Judge High School golfer was competing for the District 12 championship title on Oct. 17, one day before the one-year anniversary of his mother’s death.
“It was my mom. I was thinking of her the entire time,” Dunlop said of last week’s tournament. “I was wearing orange for kidney cancer and I was supporting my mom with that. I was trying to impress my mom.
“That was my goal the year before, making districts, just so my mom would see me play before she went on to her other life,” he added. “I was playing for her.”
Dunlop, a senior at Judge and a two-time All-Catholic golfer, finished with individual honors during the District 12 championship, held at the Penn Oaks Country Club.
Throughout the daylong contest, he wore bright orange golf pants and an orange hat and striped shirt. Dunlop explained that the color scheme originally was chosen to turn a few heads. It wasn’t until later that Dunlop realized its full significance.
“My girlfriend Samantha said, ‘Hey, I’m going to buy you an exotic outfit.’ I don’t know why she picked orange. She doesn’t know why she picked orange,” Dunlop said. “Then someone told me right after I won that orange represents kidney cancer. So it’s a good thing I wore that. Maybe that’s why I won — my mom was with me.”
Dunlop’s mother, Denise, died on Oct. 18, 2010, her death attributed to a blood clot caused by kidney cancer. She was diagnosed on Memorial Day that year; she died five months later.
“He was frustrated. Gordo showed a lot of emotion behind closed doors,” said the golfer’s father, Gordon. “If you go up to her tombstone, you’ll see a ball and a tee in front of the stone. ‘RIP Mom’ is in the logo that’s laminated on the ball. That’s his tribute to her.”
The golfer says he’ll wear his orange ensemble for major tournaments in honor of his mother and kidney-cancer awareness.
“He can’t wear it every day. He plays 365 days a year,” said his dad. “If it’s thirty degrees or over, he’s out there golfing.”
Dunlop was a late bloomer on the golf course. He didn’t pick up a club until eighth grade. Now, four years later, he has become a champion.
Before besting the individual competition during the district tournament, Dunlop helped his fellow Crusaders finish fourth in the Catholic League team championship at the Edgemont Country Club on Oct. 4.
Fellow All-Catholics Steve Owens and Connor Sharp also excelled on the green. Sharp, a sophomore, battled on three sudden-death playoff holes to defeat defending champion Owens and capture the individual trophy at the PCL championship.
“Steve Owens, who won the Catholic League last year, is one of my best friends. Me and him — we battled all year,” Dunlop said. “It was basically me and him and the token sophomore — Connor Sharp. All that kid does is battle, battle, battle. He’s the next up-and-coming star. He’s going to go all the way next year.”
The trio earned a bid to the District 12 championship thanks to their All-Catholic honors. Dunlop, however, was the only one to advance to the PIAA East Region Golf Championship, held at the Golden Oaks Golf Club in Fleetwood, Pa., on Oct. 17.
He finished the tournament with a score of 40-44-84, falling short of a state championship bid.
“He’s a great kid. He has a lot of guts,” said Matt Faust, a professional golfer who has mentored Dunlop at the Bensalem Country Club. “He always gives it one-hundred percent and he always, somehow, ends up on top. He’s real gritty, real gutty.”
ldquo;He’s just gotten so much better in such a short time. It’s unreal,” Faust added. “His potential is almost unlimited. He’s only been playing for four years. Most players at his level have been playing for fourteen years.”
Dunlop grew up in a soccer family — he is the only competitive golfer. His father is a member of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Soccer Hall of Fame. His uncle, John Dunlop — a fellow hall of famer — has coached the Father Judge soccer program for seven years.
“Our family grew up playing soccer. As soon as you could walk, you put a ball in front of your son’s feet,” recalled Dunlop’s father. “He was three years old and we started him at the YMCA. He actually went to Judge supposedly to play soccer for my brother (John Dunlop).
“He was a good soccer player. I don’t know where this came from,” he continued. “He called my brother before he told me. He said, ‘I want to try out for golf.’ He tried out his freshman year and he made varsity as a freshman.”
The rest is history.
The Bensalem Country Club soon became Dunlop’s home away from home. He continues to practice there daily and competes in several leagues through the club. Dunlop — who will turn 18 on Nov. 10 — has drastically increased his yardage on the fairway. As a novice golfer, Dunlop was hitting the ball about 150 yards. Now, he’s hitting 260.
“All the credit goes to Matt. Matt Faust, he’s awesome,” said Dunlop. “Me and him … we’ve been through the best. We’ve been through the worst. Matt’s my teacher. He’s taught me everything I know.
“I really can’t say enough about this place,” Dunlop said of the Bensalem Country Club. “The people here are great. They have taught me so much.” ••
Editor Melissa Yerkov can be reached at email@example.com