For the past five years, Clinton's Jason Faircloth has been driven by the idea of starting an organization that supports disabled golfers and provides them with their own national championship.
He has been able to get the U.S. Disabled Golf Association off the ground, but until now, he hasn't been able to get it much farther. Momentum for the project has been slow but steady and his dream event, a U.S. Disabled Open, existed only in some nebulous future.
But when the golf world convenes this week in Orlando, Florida, for the PGA Merchandise Show -- arguably the most important week of the golf business calendar -- Faircloth and the USDGA will be there, spreading the organization's mission from booth 2989.
"We just kind of chipped away and chipped away and now we've got more people involved," Faircloth said. "That's what you have to do."
A passionate golfer who was born with cerebral palsy, Faircloth got the idea of the USDGA after playing in the Disabled British Open in 2011 and 2012. While he'd made some steps early on, filing the necessary paperwork and getting an online presence, his biggest break came after he reached out to the merchandise show's organizers early last year. Impressed by his presentation, they offered him space at the 2017 event.
After that, though, Faircloth said things continued to come together slowly. He had a small handful of backers, but it was tough to get the word out.
In December, the USDGA held a fund-raising tournament in Myrtle Beach. Despite chilly weather, Faircloth said the event was a modest success. But without many others on board to help put the event on, he said the work was daunting.
"I made about 20 trips to Myrtle Beach," Faircloth said.
While he'd had thoughts about it before, he knew after that event that, for the USDGA to thrive, he was going to need more help.
"We had always known we needed some guidance to kind of get this thing to the level that it needed to be to be successful," Faircloth said. "The idea, what I wanted to do, I knew it was going to take a lot more people than just me."
That's when Faircloth reached out to Lyn Purkerson.
Purkerson is the director of corporate development with Raleigh ad agency T&T Creative and the mother of a child with special needs. She'd met Faircloth through her work with Clayton Community Park's Universal Playground Project, which highlights the need for inclusive play.
She quickly understood the value of the USDGA's mission and, thanks to a background of working with non-profits, she knew she could help.
"Jason's one of those where, his spirit is just infectious," Purgerson said. "He is so determined."
With Purkerson's help, the USDGA now is putting together a board of directors and courting new financial backers.
"We're really getting the word out and our programs are really coming to fruition," Purkerson said.
Faircloth and the USDGA will be involved in a charity golf tournament slated for May in Clayton, which will also benefit the Universal Playground project. There are plans in place for a series of USDGA-sponsored clinics for disabled golfers to be held at N.C. State's Lonnie Poole Golf Course this spring.
While plans are still being hammered out, Faircloth and Purkerson said that the U.S. Disabled Open should finally become a reality in 2018.
Faircloth is quick to point out that there is still plenty of work to be done. But with wheels slowly beginning to churn, he's excited to see where this recent progress leads.
"I just want to see this succeed and take off," Faircloth said. "I've been working on it for years. Most people would have given up by now. It took me four or five years to get this far. I had a lot of people tell me 'You might need to change this, you might need to change your vision.'
"That's not the way I work. We still have a specific goal and if you've got to change your goal, it's not worth it, to be honest with you."
This article was written by Stephen Schramm from The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network.