Teeing is believing

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 my­erkov@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at myerkov@bsmphilly.com.

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