With files from Tim O’Connor
If you’ve ever made a visit to the Core Golf Academy near Orlando, Florida you’d know it is blessed with some very talented students.
Founded by Canadian golf professional Tom Jackson, Core has become a home for some of the best young golfers on the planet, a platform for their future success.
It’s no surprise when students from Core win golf tournaments anywhere around the world, after all this is a student base that is focussed on both traditional education AND golf education during their time at the academy.
There are a lot of young students at Core you would label as special, and none more than Dustin Barr of Thunder Bay, Ontario.
The 19 year-old recently won a Future Collegians World Tour event in Florida, besting a field of top players from around the world with back to back scores of 71.
While a nice win for burgeoning young golfer it seems less than extraordinary until you consider that just two years ago Barr was undergoing chemotherapy for two tumours. Despite the grim intrusion on his life he continued to practice the game he loved and continue to compete.
“I’ve worked really hard to get where I am right now. This means a lot,” said Barr, whose dreams of a NCAA college scholarship and playing on the PGA Tour never wavered even after the two cancerous tumors were found-one in his pancreas and another on his hip-in March 2013.
At the time, doctors said Barr required surgery that would cut out part of his pancreas and force a hip replacement. From March through August, Barr underwent seven rounds of chemotherapy, but his Thunder Bay coach Dustin Wilson said Barr “played golf everyday and you’d never know he had cancer.”
After a golf trip to Scotland with Wilson that included his “wish” round at The Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland arranged by the Children’s Wish Foundation, Barr continued chemotherapy and competing even though his hair fell out and he felt exhausted. Back in Canada, Barr underwent 16 hours of surgery and the doctors reported the tumors were dead and his hip was saved. He immediately began a physiotherapy program to build his strength.
This past January, Barr was strong enough to enroll at Core Golf Academy in Orlando where he’s working on his game with his coach Nick Duffy, competing and hoping to catch the eyes of some NCAA college coaches.
In Thunder Bay, his mother Leanne said the family was overjoyed. “We have cleared the avalanche and now just have to get to the top of that mountain.”
Jeff Hay, Core’s Director of Golf, said Barr’s victory has thrilled everyone connected with the academy and demonstrated the young man’s grit and determination.
“It’s tremendous how Dustin has overcome such odds and continued to pursue his dream,” Hay said. “Because of his illness, he really hasn’t played many tournaments against top competition, which makes his win all the more incredible.
“With this victory and beating cancer, I think it sets Dustin up to attract attention from some college coaches. Wouldn’t any coach want a fighter like this guy?”