This year the Augusta Christian School golf team features a very special player.
He may not be ready to follow Ty Tryon and jump to the PGA Tour anytime soon, but AC sophomore Chance Fulford's story may be more impressive than any young golfer in the country, including the tale of Tryon, the prep phenom from Orlando.
Just about every sophomore who plays golf on a varsity prep squad has a proud dad roaming the gallery, but Chance's dad seems to almost glow when even talking about watching his son play well.
Don't mistake Mike Fulford's pride for being anything negative. He is not an overbearing parent who is pushing his kid into sports. He has good reason to be a little more proud than the average dad.
To realize the reason why, you must understand what Chance has been through over the last few years. Chance was diagnosed with a mild form of muscular dystrophy, but his condition also caused severe heart problems.
So while Chance was still preparing for the eighth grade, he was fighting for his life. He required, life-threatening heart transplant surgery.
From the time he was diagnosed through the successful transplant operation, Chance had plenty of people to thank - from the doctors and nurses to loving family members and friends who stood by him during this difficult period.
Another group which played an important role in Chance's ordeal was the Make-a-Wish foundation. This organization began in 1980 when a seven-year-old boy in Phoenix was diagnosed with Leukemia. The boy wanted to be a policeman, so the Arizona Department of Public Safety made his wish come true by giving him a uniform, helmet, badge, and a helicopter ride.
This story inspired a group to form the first Make-a-Wish foundation chapter. The Make-a-Wish foundation of America was founded less than three years later. Today, there are over 100 chapters throughout the world.
Make-a-wish grants wishes to children who have been determined by physicians to have a life-threatening illness.
Well, Chance was a candidate and was chosen for a wish.
Being a huge fan of the game of golf, all of his choices involved the game. One wish seemed improbable, if not impossible. Chance wanted to meet Tiger Woods. Not only was Woods one of the most recognizable people in the world, but he was also one of the least accessible to the public.
However, thanks to some hard work from the Make-a-Wish chapter of Greater Atlanta and North Georgia, and its wish fairies, the nearly impossible became reality.
Chance would meet golf's biggest Icon.
Make-a-Wish set up an opportunity for Chance and his family to attend one of Tiger's golf camps in Norfolk, Va. Chance was thrilled. He would actually be on the same driving range with his golf idol.
Now, this wasn't arranged as a one-on-one lesson from Tiger, but still it was going to be the thrill of a lifetime. So, despite his overwhelming physical setback, Chance and his dad headed for Virginia.
The camp was great. There was Chance a few yards from Tiger. He was on cloud nine, and that is when Tiger gave a very sick kid the thrill of a lifetime.
"The camp was over, nearly everyone was gone, and over 100 members of the media were waiting on Tiger for a press conference. Instead, he walked up to Chance and said 'Come on over here,"' Mike Fulford said. "He took Chance to one side of the range and hit balls with him. It was amazing."
According to Mr. Fulford, people can say what they want about Woods being unapproachable, but for four hours on that special day, he Fulford said Tiger couldn't have been nicer.
"He took the time to make Chance feel like the center of attention," Mr. Fulford said.
It has been just two years since that dream meeting, and there's Chance healthy and happy and playing varsity golf for the Lions. And not far behind you'll find his dad smiling from ear to ear as proud as he can be. Chance could shoot 85 or 185 and it wouldn't matter.
And now you know why.
You can help the Make-a-Wish foundation's Augusta Regional office by taking part in the Inaugural A.B.'s Sportsline "Tournament of Wishes" at The Club at Jones Creek on Tuesday, Apr. 23. For more information please call 774-9474.
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