As PGA TOUR player and Caddy For A Cure supporter Bryson DeChambeau was preparing to make history at The Northern Trust – eventually winning the title and becoming only the fourth player ever to win an NCAA Championship, U.S. Amateur Championship, and at least three PGA TOUR events before his 25th birthday – another milestone was being celebrated. During a special ceremony held in the Birdies for the Brave Patriots’ Outpost Presented by United Rentals, Caddy For A Cure National Spokesperson Christian Collins and his brother, Calen, were honored with the second annual Birdies for the Brave Courage Award. The award was presented by TOUR player Jim Furyk, who along with DeChambeau, is a Birdies for the Brave player supporter. DeChambeau also hosted Caddy For A Cure experiences earlier in the week.
Created by 33-year PGA of America member Russ Holden, who formerly served as the long-time caddy for TOUR player Bernhard Langer, Caddy For A Cure is a non-profit that enables fans to bid in online auctions for the unique opportunity to caddy for a TOUR or LPGA Tour player during an official practice or Pro-Am competition round, with 100% of the proceeds donated to charity. During Holden’s time as the club pro at Woodfield Country Club in Boca Raton, FL, he met and hired former minor league baseball pitcher Chris Collins, and the two became fast friends. When two of Collins’ sons, Christian and Calen, were both born with Fanconi Anemia, a rare hereditary bone marrow disease, Caddy For A Cure pledged to help raise funds for this devastating illness. Since then, both boys have become not only ardent supporters and beneficiaries of the charity, but also two of the most beloved special guests on the TOUR.
Occurring in just one in 130,000 births, Fanconi Anemia (FA) is a rare blood disorder that prevents the body’s bone marrow from making enough new blood cells for the body to work normally. Those with the disease may have bone marrow failure, physical abnormalities, organ defects, and a significant risk for certain types of upper-body cancers, including acute myelogenous leukemia. As is common among affected individuals, both boys are missing thumbs, have clubbed hands, and are very small. Christian had a bone marrow transplant, and is doing well. Calen also had a bone marrow transplant; however, in January of this year, he suffered a major setback when he was diagnosed with mouth cancer and had surgery to remove a golf ball-sized tumor. The removal of his tongue was also necessary as part of the procedure. In June, it was discovered that the cancer had returned, and Calen underwent additional surgery to remove part of his jaw and replace it with his fibula. After Labor Day, he will begin radiation treatment, a process made even more challenging when applied to a young person with an impaired immune system.
Through all of their significant health challenges, Christian – who serves as National Spokesperson of Caddy For A Cure – and Calen have persevered with strength, courage and love for everyone around them. Despite their diminutive statures, they have become huge presences on the TOUR, where their joy for life has inspired players and fans alike while giving hope to other families dealing with FA. Both have become friends with many TOUR players who have been generous with their time and support, including Birdies for the Brave Player Supporter Bubba Watson, whom they caddied for at The Masters and with whom they regularly play video games. Whether inside-the-ropes, in the gallery, helping to host military families at TOUR events, or contributing their time and passion during Caddy For A Cure charity events, Christian and Calen have helped many people face challenges with courage and determination.
It was very fitting, then, for Christian and Calen to receive the Birdies for the Brave Courage Award, an honor bestowed upon an individual or individuals who demonstrate unwavering courage and inspire others to overcome obstacles despite adversity.
“Presenting this award was very humbling,” said Furyk. “These two young men are incredibly inspiring, and remind us all of the importance of staying strong, giving back, and never giving up.”
For more information about Caddy For A Cure, please visit www.caddyforacure.com. For more information about Birdies for the Brave, please visit www.birdiesforthebrave.org.