Golf phenom Dakoda Dowd’s mother dies

may25_dowd_299x344_0.jpg
Dakoda Dowd with her mother, Kelly Jo, at the Ginn Open last year. Dakoda was only 13 when she played in the LPGA event.
Doug Benc/Getty Images

(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.