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Golf phenom Dakoda Dowd's mother dies

Dakoda Dowd with her mother, Kelly Jo, at the Ginn Open last year.
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Dakoda Dowd with her mother, Kelly Jo, at the Ginn Open last year. Dakoda was only 13 when she played in the LPGA event.

(AP) — Kelly Jo Dowd, a cancer-stricken mother whose dream of seeing her teen daughter Dakoda play in an LPGA event drew widespread attention when it was realized last spring, has died. She was 42.

She spent her final years battling breast, bone and liver cancer, which spread to her brain in the final months of her life. She died Thursday night at her home in Palm Harbor, Fla., a family spokesman said.

Her death came just over a year after seeing her daughter play in the Ginn Open in Reunion, Fla., when Dakoda, then 13, and her family went public with their story, even knowing Kelly Jo's death was looming. Shortly before the tournament, the family was told Kelly Jo would have only a few months to live.

"She'll die knowing that she was loved," Dakoda said in an interview last year with The Associated Press.

Earlier this month, Dakoda, now 14, failed to advance in qualifying for the U.S. Women's Open, clearly distracted by her mother's rapidly failing health.

"It's been so hard," Dakoda said last month, "and my mom fought even harder."

Dakoda Dowd, one of the nation's top-ranked junior golfers, was invited to play in the 2006 tournament by Ginn officials, who were moved when they heard the family's story. Dowd shot a 2-over par 74 on the first day, beating a number of major-championship winners, then shot 82 in the second round and missed the cut.

"I'm prouder today than I was yesterday that my daughter has the courage and strength to play with these LPGA professionals," Kelly Jo said after that tournament. "And I feel great right now. I feel great. My dream came true out here."

The Dowd family chose to tell their story publicly with hopes that Kelly Jo's plight -- she ignored a lump for several months before being diagnosed with breast cancer, which she later thought she beat -- would be a strong reminder that women should be vigilant in doing self-exams and getting checked regularly.

"I did something pretty stupid," Kelly Jo said in a 2006 interview with the AP. "And the only way that I can let myself feel better about it is if I know that people can learn from our situation."

Plus, the family spent much time trying to raise money for groups like MakingMemories.org, which grants wishes to people who have been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer.

A memorial service will be held Tuesday at Sylvan Abbey Funeral Home in Clearwater, Fla.

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