Dacula High School grad Chris Pendley, right, who survived his battle with cancer, was recently flown to a tournament in Ohio to meet professional golfer Bubba Watson. During his treatment, Pendley attended every practice and game with his football team. (Special Photo)
DACULA — The most memorable thing pro golfer Bubba Watson did during the Memorial Tournament was not shooting even par to finish tied for 29th — it was providing a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a Dacula teen.
In the spring of 2011, Chris Pendley was diagnosed with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft-tissue cancer in the abdominal and groin area. Throughout the next fall, amid 20 rounds of chemotherapy, 20 radiation treatments and plenty of surgery, the junior at Dacula High School stuck with his beloved Falcons football team.
Even though Pendley, an offensive lineman, couldn’t practice, couldn’t hit anyone, he was always there.
A representative from the Courage for Life Foundation saw his story, and the wheels started turning toward a surreal trip. Pendley — his eyes now on college and eventually med school — was going to meet his favorite golfer.
At the end of May, the Pendleys were flown up to Dublin, Ohio, where they stayed five days for the PGA’s Memorial Tournament. During an early-week practice round, Chris Pendley had his dream come true.
“It was pretty awesome because we were allowed to walk one of the holes with him,” he said of meeting Watson, a metro Atlanta native, former University of Georgia golfer and last year’s Masters champ.
“After we walked a hole, since it was a practice round, he let me putt on the green … He asked me about my health and stuff because he lost his dad to cancer two or three years ago. We just talked about golf and stuff.”
The Courage for Life Foundation, which “grants life-encouraging sports experiences to high school athletes with life-threatening illnesses,” made the arrangement and footed the entire bill.
“I know what Chris went through was tough,” Pendley’s mother, Tracy, said. “And what the foundation gave Chris was something really special.”
After sitting out his junior year, Pendley saw some playing time for the Falcons as a senior. He’s had no relapses and is now looking forward to college: his plans are for two years at Georgia Gwinnett College before transferring to UGA to study pre-med, probably chemistry.
After that it’s med school to become an anesthesiologist, he said.