By Kevin Redding
As cancer continues to touch his family’s life, a Miller Place golf lover is raising thousands of dollars on and off the course to combat the disease. Bob Dow, the winner of last year’s PGA volunteer tournament, which raises a total $15,000 to local charities, is back at it this year to raise more money and awareness.
Dow remembers it as clear as day. Following his wife Susan’s routine breast health exam at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip in September 2011, the 58-year-old business owner recalls his fear when the phone rang and the doctor on the other end asked Susan to come back in. They found something.
“I was sick to my stomach when I heard this,” Dow said. “I just didn’t know what that meant, whereas my wife is the type of strong person who just said, ‘OK, what do we have to do here?’”
“I’m a super competitive person both in business and in life, and I’ve always approached everything in my life with the mindset that I will do my best.”
For Susan, 55, who was soon diagnosed with breast cancer, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before she got this call, as the disease had been so prevalent in her family. Her grandmother died from ovarian cancer and her mother is a 30-year breast cancer survivor.
The Dows attacked the diagnosis head-on, spending the next few years in and out of the hospital through six surgeries. Bob Dow said his wife never missed out on the big family moments, such as their daughter’s sporting events, senior prom or graduation.
But Dow has been no slouch either. Aside from taking part in cancer awareness walks and events over the last five years, he was determined to do something more for the cancer cause than merely serve as a caregiver. He got his opportunity last year when he volunteered as a PGA marshal at the Barclays golf tournament, which took place on Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in Farmingdale.
A longtime lover of the sport, Dow was drawn in, excited to be around professional golfers like Stewart Cink and Patrick Reed, but it was when he discovered a PGA Tour Volunteer Challenge offered by Barclays that he was able to against cancer his way to help his wife and others fighting cancer.
The nationwide challenge, which began in 2015, is a friendly fundraising competition among the thousands of volunteers that participate to try to drum up as many votes as possible for “favorite volunteer,” mostly through a ready-made website and individualized campaigning.
The person with the most votes presents a $10,000 check in their name to a charity of the tournament’s choosing, and an additional $5,000 to one of the winner’s choice.
When he wasn’t helping to keep the flow of the tournament going by controlling the crowds or making sure the players are able to move from one hole to the next without a problem, Dow as volunteer went above and beyond to collect a total 1,460 votes through Twitter, Facebook and email blasts.
He won the challenge, and presented a $10,000 check to The First Tee of Metropolitan New York and $5,000 to his chosen charity, American Cancer Society, Hauppauge chapter.
“I’m a super competitive person both in business and in life, and I’ve always approached everything in my life with the mindset that I will do my best, will work the hardest and, in this case, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind I was going to win,” Dow said, adding that his wife was his biggest inspiration. “She is the love of my life.”
His wife, who is currently in remission, said in a series of texts that although she’s the one who inspired him, he’s truly her hero.
“I am so blessed to have married my best friend,” she wrote. “I am incredibly proud … a little overwhelmed, but that is just par for the course (no pun intended). I wish I can say I was surprised, but that is just who he is — always willing to be there, lend a hand and fight for a cause. When he has a passion for something, he will move heaven and earth to see it through.”
That passion continues to burn as Dow sets his sights on winning this year’s challenge, now sponsored by Chicago-based company, Northern Trust.
In a competition of 1,200 volunteers, he’s campaigning to raise more money for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and the tournament’s charity of choice, Tackle Kids Cancer, with a new inspiration: his sister-in-law who was diagnosed six months ago with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.
“I’ve seen [Bob[’s not just passionate about being a volunteer, but also about doing everything he can to advance the research for cancer cures and treatments…”
This year, he’s also volunteered to be the face of the American Cancer Society’s Real Men Wear Pink campaign, which advocates men to take on the cause of the fight against breast cancer.
“Bob is one of those people who, when he puts his mind to something, he perseveres and has no other goal but the finish line,” said Katie Goepfrich, specialist of community events at the society. “He’s going to do everything he can to make a difference in the world right now.”
Peter Mele, executive director of Northern Trust, called Dow an ideal volunteer.
“He’s very passionate about what he does and is quite passionate about the American Cancer Society,” Mele said of Dow, who spoke recently at the organization’s media conference. “As I’ve come to know Bob, I’ve seen he’s not just passionate about being a volunteer, but also about doing everything he can to advance the research for cancer cures and treatments to help people survive this terrible disease. I think his message gets out there really well.”
In true fashion, Dow is eager to be the one to present the checks again this year.
“When they calculate the votes next Saturday, I want to be on top again,” he said.
From now until 2 p.m. Aug. 26, people can vote for the Dow family in the volunteer challenge at www.tourchallenge.com.