Gregory – first non-player to receive prestigious award – has raised $1 million for children’s charities through Walking For Kids Foundation
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fl,- The PGA TOUR announced that D.J. Gregory, who was born with cerebral palsy and has walked over 14,000 miles and 42,000 holes at PGA TOUR events since 2008 in support of his Walking For Kids Foundation, has been named the recipient of the PGA TOUR Courage Award. Gregory is being honored in a surprise ceremony at the WM Phoenix Open.
The PGA TOUR Courage Award is presented to a person who, through courage and perseverance, has overcome extraordinary adversity, such as personal tragedy or debilitating injury or illness, to make a significant and meaningful contribution to the game of golf. Introduced in 2012, Gregory is the fifth recipient and first non-PGA TOUR member of the PGA TOUR Courage Award, joining Erik Compton (2013), Jarrod Lyle (2015), Gene Sauers (2017) and Morgan Hoffmann (2020).
“D.J. has endeared himself to countless fans, players, staff, and tournaments for over a decade on the PGA TOUR and is a tremendous example of perseverance and courage,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. “Our players have embraced D.J. over the years and continue to be motivated by his dedication to the Walking For Kids Foundation. We couldn’t be prouder of the impact he has made and the many lives he has touched in a positive way.”
The Courage Award includes a $25,000 contribution by the TOUR to a charity of the award recipient’s choice, which will be matched by Rahm, who will have Gregory walking with him this week at the WM Phoenix Open. Title sponsor WM and the Thunderbirds, the host organization of the WM Phoenix Open – which, like all PGA TOUR events, have been strong supporters of Gregory’s – will also each match the $25,000 donation to Walking For Kids in support of his amazing work.
In late 2009, a year after walking his first season on TOUR, Gregory formed the Walking For Kids Foundation, which allows PGA TOUR players and sports fans the opportunity to support children’s charities. Gregory recently surpassed $1 million raised through his foundation, which he has in turn donated to over 25 children’s charities including First Tee chapters such as First Tee – Connecticut, First Tee – Greater Knoxville, First Tee – Greater Kansas City, First Tee – Sandhills, First Tee – Central Carolina and First Tee – Triangle.
When Gregory was an infant, doctors told his parents that he would probably spend his life in a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy. But that didn’t keep him from trying to beat the odds. He went through numerous surgeries that essentially broke his legs in order to turn his feet outward, and he eventually learned to walk with a cane. He fell in love with golf at the age of 12, when he first began watching the sport on television and attending local tournaments.
Golf always remained a passion, and in 2008 with the help of CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz, who met Gregory years earlier at a tournament, Gregory decided to make a dream come true—to travel the country and walk with a different player at each event on the PGA TOUR. By the end of his journey in late 2008, Gregory had walked well over 990 miles and a total of 3,256 holes on TOUR.
Following the 2008 season, Nantz was quoted saying, “It’s going to take an awful lot in golf to be a better story than D.J. Gregory. It is the defining story of 2008. D.J. is sending a message to people about determination and faith and vision and courage. I really believe we’re all eyewitnesses to something that will be a movie someday.”
Nantz’s words were prophetic as each week since 2008, a host of different players have requested to have Gregory follow them. In return, the player donates to Walking For Kids. Gregory has walked with the winning player eight times in his career, including Ben Crane (2010 Farmers Insurance Open), Hunter Mahan (2012 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and 2012 Houston Open), Zach Johnson (2012 John Deere Classic), Jason Day (2015 PGA Championship), Bubba Watson (2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play), Cameron Champ (2019 Fortinet Championship) and Jon Rahm (2021 U.S. Open).
Gregory, who has walked an average of 45-48 events each year since 2008, has also walked with players on PGA TOUR Champions and the Korn Ferry Tour. Since 2008, he has walked over 14,000 miles at TOUR events alone, which is 60 percent of the way around the globe. He is estimated to have walked over 42,000 holes at PGA TOUR events in that time, all with the knowledge that doctors once said that he would never walk and be confined to a wheelchair his entire life. To put this in perspective the player with the most holes played on TOUR since 2008 is Charles Howell lll at nearly 24,000.
In his first year on TOUR in 2008, Gregory used up to eight bandages on his feet every round for the entire season. By the second year, his body adjusted and the need for bandages diminished, but he would still go through nearly seven pairs of shoes each season. Gregory also kept track of his falls over the last 15 years; he fell 29 times in his first year on TOUR. The number of falls also diminished since then, and he’s proud to have only recorded one in all of 2021, which happened in the final event of the regular season at The RSM Classic.
Fans can follow Gregory’s experiences on TOUR and donate to his cause at www.walkingforkids.org and on Twitter @walkingforkids.