You don't have to be a golf pro or even seasoned player to spend the summer golfing every day, in 50 different states. That's been proven by Pete Crozier from Central Ohio, who this summer completed 50 rounds on as many different courses in that same number of days -- all in the name of raising money and awareness for diabetes.
The inspiration for his trip, named Fifty for Father, came from his own dad George, who wasn’t the greatest golfer but loved the game, and died in 1998. George lived with type 2 diabetes, and though it wasn’t a direct cause of death, his son says it was a factor. That’s what prompted the golf trip idea, which was 20 years in the making. Pete says there had been an itch ever since his dad died to do something in his honor -- write a book or pursue some kind of 'bucket list' travel adventure.
Pete was 29 when his dad passed, and the three things he fondly remembers most about his dad are that he was an engineer and numbers guy, an epic road-tripper who loved traveling, and a "terrible golfer." So when Pete Crozier was approaching his own 50th birthday in 2018, everything started coming together. He also tapped into another source of inspiration for this golf trip: his own teenage son Gavin, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes back at age 4.
Now 15, Gavin was diagnosed in December 2008, about a month after the family had moved from Chicago to Columbus, OH. They thought Gavin had come down with the flu, due to the thirst, frequent urination, and significant weight loss in a short amount of time. Of course, it turned out to be T1D and that became the family’s “new normal,” as they refer to it.
With all of that in mind, Pete Crozier says his plan started to crystalize, and he began mapping out the financial and logistical details to make it happen. That involved getting courses to donate rounds of golf, to have rental car company Avis donate a van that he could travel in, and seeking other support that would save money.
His “Fifty for Father” adventure began on May 27 in North Carolina and finished in mid-July at the Green Hill Golf Course in Worcester, MA, the same course where his father learned the game. He drove a Dodge Caravan most of the trip, putting over 11,000 miles on it,
In the end, Crozier raised over $55,585 for the JDRF -- in one of the most unique national diabetes fundraising / road trip adventures to date, as far as we know. The money came in the form of personal and organizational donations for his efforts from 431 different donors.
Not a Golf Vacation
Crozier points out that it's important that this journey not be viewed as a “golf vacation.”
“This was about me doing something for people I love, and try to make a difference in the world,” he said. “That’s what it became and people really latched onto it, and I think people also wanted a positive story in our often-jaded news cycle. People just wanted to help. I’m a big believer in the world changes one person and action at a time, and this felt like that.”
In fact, Crozier approached this trip with a solid business plan – from tactics for soliciting donations, to travel and logistics, and how he’d pay for incidentals and ask for donations to the diabetes cause along the way.
It helps that Crozier works professionally for a non-profit group known as Junior Academy, which teaches kids about financial literacy and career readiness. He says his boss was fully supportive, allowing him to take time off for travel for such a great cause.
While Crozier was a state golf champ in high school and has golfed recreationally over the years (he says he’s a "decent golfer"), he notes that his dad wasn’t good. But the man loved the game, and Pete wishes they’d had more chances to play together. Traveling to all of these golf courses, and making it clear that he was there in the name of diabetes, gave him the chance to channel that desire into something meaningful.
Golfing for Diabetes Awareness
“That’s what I did,” he says. “I took this thing – golf – that I love and has been an important part of my life, and that's helped make me the man that I am, and used the lessons you learn about life from golf, and I did some good with it.”
All throughout those 50 days, Crozier says he met incredible people and everyone welcomed him. There was plenty of diabetes awareness and advocacy in the discussions around his arrival and efforts. And when strangers heard about why this D-Dad was out there – as well as the inspiration from his own father – they were eager to help, he says. He also met many fellow golfers who had personal diabetes connections, and for those who didn't there was quite a bit of awareness Crozier passed along just on basics like the differences between T1 and T2 diabetes.
Of course, the sights were amazing throughout the country and on many golf courses. He fondly remembers physical layouts of courses that were breathtaking. For example, the Coeur d’Alene Resort in Idaho that had a mountain-side course overlooking a lake and a floating putting green accessible only by boat. There, they were able to just beat the rain as they made it to the 18-hole’s green.
One of the best surprises Crozier describes from his trip in general was seeing the “vastness of our country.” He expected places like Montana, Nebraska and Wyoming to look as they do, but he didn’t expect to see the expansive beauty that he did in so many other places – like the winding country backroads from Arkansas to Louisiana. He found these emotionally charging, not to mention the logistical challenges of trying to navigate via GPS or find the next fuel station.
Golf: A Metaphor for Diabetes Life?
In some ways, Crozier believes that his "Fifty for Father" adventure was a sort of metaphor for diabetes life: We do our best each day to have the correct stance and swing, we use the best clubs for the game, and try to hit the ball straight -- but so often despite our best efforts, something is off and the ball goes in the wrong direction. Rarely in diabetes do we get a hole-in-one and we’re often just trying to make par.
Crozier says he experienced a type of burnout a few weeks into his trip.
He recalls missing his family – he’s a married father of four. In particular, he recalls the non-stop routine with a lack of sleep and incredible physical exhaustion getting to him on days 16-17, when he played in the blistering heat of the southern Utah desert and then drove all day. The natural high of the trip had started wearing off, and doubt about being able to finish had started creeping in. He called his son and had a revelation, that this is what it often feels like to live with T1D, the never-ending routine where you feel you’re at a mental breaking point. His son affirmed that feeling.
“I can’t quit, and neither can you,” Pete Crozier recalls his son saying to him. “That energized me. I moved on to Las Vegas the next day, and on the course I threw the bag over my shoulder, carried it for 18 holes, and shot my best score of the entire trip.”
Crozier says one of the greatest moments actually came very early on in the first 10 days of the trip, when his son Gavin joined him for a bit. It was Day Two and they were able to visit the U.S. Women’s Open being held in South Carolina, where Gavin got to meet LPGA pro player Ally McDonald, who is 25 and also lives with T1D. Watching her interact with his son was eye-opening, the dad says.
“They had a great conversation about challenges they’ve faced individually, and at the end she said to him, ‘Gavin, you and I understand each other as athletes. But because of our diabetes, we have to push ourselves smart,’” Crozier said.
As a parent, I was amazed. I don’t even know if she realizes how wonderful she is. She compared her world-class golf career to my son’s experience running cross country in high school. I could almost see the thought bubble over his head, ‘Well, if she can do this, I can do this and nothing will stop me from pursuing my dreams.’ That was just a personal great moment and parenting moment, and another reminder of why I was out there doing this.”
Honor Thy Thoughts and Dreams
It was particularly fun to see Crozier on social media sharing his growing collection of golf balls, numbered by day and the state he was playing in. He also collected golf markers from the various courses and kept a photo of his dad nearby, as well as an encased baseball card of his dad's favorite player Ted Williams.
For golfers, it's fun to look at Crozier's golf stats from his experience: 4,116 shot overall, which included 381 pars, 364 bogey shots, and 53 birdies.
As the tour finished, Crozier says he learned a lot and feels accomplished.
"We described this as something where I could honor and remember my dad, and maybe even get to know him a bit better 20 years after his death. Yes, absolutely on honoring him: There were 40 different news stories on this, and we raised $60,000. I think he’d be really proud of what we were able to accomplish. I also remembered him every day on every course, and thought about times we’d shared and lessons we learned from him.”
Crozier adds, "The lesson I pulled away from him and all this is to share yourself with others, and allow them to share themselves with you, because you’ll never get that opportunity again. We have such limited time together.”
He's not yet sure there will be a follow-on to this "Fifty for Father" tour, but Crozier says does entertain the idea of doing something else like this down the road or making it a broader Diabetes Community effort where more people can get involved.
“This was all very satisfying,” he says. “Now it’s your turn. Whatever that one thing is that you’ve always wanted to do that’s been in the back of your brain, go do it. Don’t put it off. It’s never the right time. But I have zero regrets and it brought me incredible joy and perspective. So whoever has that one thing, just figure out how to do it.”