BOSTON – Phil Mickelson chipped within a foot of the cup on the 18th hole and had a tap in to win the 2005 PGA championship at Baltusrol. At the trophy presentation was Phil‘s family, the world media, and of course David Finn. Who is David Finn? He is and always will be the greatest golf fan in the world.
David Finn lives with his family in Ramsey, New Jersey. He is also a young man inflicted with a debilitating form of muscular dystrophy that confines his twisted body to a wheelchair. But when you see him smile and swing his arms in joy, his enthusiasm is contagious. His love for golf has resulted with David forming friendships with PGA pros that started when David met Phil Mickelson at the 2005 PGA.
David needs around the clock care, but his dad loaded up a special van and took David to Baltusrol, a course in Springfield, New Jersey that was hosting the PGA tournament. It was David’s first pro golf tournament and his dad, John, pushed his son all over the course looking for prime viewing spots for his son.
During a practice round Phil Mickelson’s caddie, Jim ‘Bones” Mackay, saw David in his wheelchair and waved Mickelson over to say hi. Phil posed for a few pictures and gave David an autographed glove and as Humphrey Bogart said in Casablanca, “this was the start of a beautiful friendship.”
It was a good week for David, but it was even better for Phil, who finessed a delicate shot out of the rough and sank the putt, to beat Steve Elkington and Thomas Bjorn in a rare Monday morning playoff. It was the second major win for Mickelson and his caddy Jim “Bones” Mackay. Phil saw David in his wheelchair parked in back of the green. Mickelson decided to make the week complete by inviting David over to the trophy presentation. “It was” said Phil, “a moment of pure joy.”
I first met David and his family when they were set up behind the par-3 16th hole at the Boston TPC club. His dad John and mom Vanessa were two of the nicest people I ever met. The love and care they had for their son was something that all parents should strive to emulate. Initially I thought the poor kid has such a difficult life, but David does not deal in pity. His passion for golf helps him get through each day.
I remember one Labor Day weekend when the Deutsche Bank Championship was here, John Finn told me they had to rush his son to Children’s Hospital because he was having trouble breathing. “We almost lost him,” said John. “David was in the hospital for five months and they had to do a tracheostomy and now needs this respirator.” But David still showed joy as every player walked by and gave him a fist-bump.
Jim “Bones” Mackay has formed a very strong bond with the Finn family including providing tickets for the entire family for the 2013 Masters. The generosity shown to the Finn family has turned into some amazing encounters for David. He has met Michael “Air” Jordan and President George Bush.
One of my favorite days on the golf course was Sept 1, 2018 at the Boston TPC club in Norton Mass. It was the Dell Technologies Championship, and the Finn gang was once again set up behind the par 3 16th hole. Tiger Woods hit a good shot on the green but missed his birdie putt. On the way to the next tee, Woods fist-bumped David and dropped a ball in his lap. David shook his body back and forth and waved his arms about in a moment, that Phil Mickelson would describe as “a moment of pure joy.”
Over the years David Finn has acquired souvenirs from many PGA players and his room back in New Jersey looks like a mini Hall of Fame.
It has been a joy knowing the entire Finn family. Their dedication to their son reminds me of Dick Hoyt who pushed his son in a wheelchair in a number of Boston Marathons. Hoyt’s son was a quadriplegic and also suffered from cerebral palsy. It would be a better world if more parents were as devoted to their children as Dick Hoyt and John and Vanessa Finn are.
Golf forms bonds, friendships and life lessons like no other sport!