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IMHO: Ohio man hits links to attack diabetes, honor father, help son

  • Pete Crozier with his son, Gavin, during Crozier's Fifty for Father golf tour and fundraiser. (Courtesy photograph)

  • Pete Crozier, of Worthington, Ohio, takes a swing during one of his rounds of golf during his Fifty for Father golf and diabetes research fundraiser. Crozier is playing 50 rounds of golf in each of the 50 states over 50 days; he played Montcalm Golf Club in Enfield on Friday, July 12, 2109. (Courtesy photograph)

  • George Crozier

  • Greg Fennell. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 7/13/2019 10:16:10 PM
Modified: 7/13/2019 10:34:05 PM

It’s almost time for Pete Crozier to go home. Not until a few more rounds of golf first.

The Worthington, Ohio, native has been on the road since late May in service of his Fifty for Father fundraiser. In the summer of his 50th year on the planet, Crozier has been crisscrossing the country to play 50 rounds of golf in all 50 states over the span of 50 days. The last 50 — $50,000 — is the donation goal he hopes to reach on behalf of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

His late father, George, is the genesis. His 15-year-old son, Gavin, is the inspiration. Golf has been the conduit.

Crozier’s tour brought him to Montcalm Golf Club in Enfield on Friday. As construction crews labored on a driving range project, the day’s first golfers made their way to the clubhouse and the slopes of Whaleback emerged from a humid morning haze, Crozier sat on the deck and described an experience that has been both tiring and fulfilling.

“I think people were starving for kind of a positive story, with a son doing this for his father,” Crozier said. “My dad died of a stroke with complications from Type 2 diabetes. Ten years later, my son Gavin, at age 4, was diagnosed with Type 1. It’s something that’s surrounded my life.

“They get all the money; I get all the Advil,” Crozier added with a laugh. “That’s the deal. And I’m not budging.”

George Crozier once called Worcester, Mass., home, learning the game at Green Hill Golf Course. When George Crozier died 20 years ago at the age of 66, one of Pete Crozier’s brothers inaugurated the Crozier Open, an opportunity for 16 relatives and friends to unite somewhere in the United States annually to play golf and remember Pete’s dad.

Not long into the Crozier Open rotation, Pete realized the notion of traveling for golf might be something that would appeal to his father.

“It’s a weekend of over-managed, overanalyzed, ridiculous games,” Crozier recalled. “I remember thinking about year three into it that Dad would like this. He would have loved visiting every state. He was a big traveler and a big road-tripper.

“So for the next 10 or 15 years, every time we’d go to this tournament, we’d talk about it, me and my buddies. It was great road-trip fodder: ‘Oh, you should start here, this is where you should go, this is who you should call.’ ”

By last November, Crozier — who works in the Columbus suburbs as vice president for capstone projects at Junior Achievement, a company that teaches youths about financial literacy — had his Fifty for Father plans in motion.

“The personal, emotional part is doing it for my dad; the tangible reason, the goal of trying to reach $50,000, is for my son to find a cure,” Crozier said. “I implore everyone to think about what’s important to them. This is important to me. This is my thing, making sure my son lives a long and healthy life. And doing something to make my dad proud 20 years after he died.”

Crozier can speak to the effect of diabetes because he and his family have lived so closely with it. He said Gavin’s diagnosis came as a result of a bout with an autoimmune disease when he was very young.

“The way I explained it to him when he was 4 years old was he was so tough, he was just throwing punches in beating the disease, and he punched the wrong cells,” Crozier said. “He punched the beta cells in his pancreas that produce insulin. Now they no longer produce insulin.”

For the first two years, Crozier and his wife, Sarah, had to administer insulin injections into their son four times a day. Gavin has managed his diabetes with the help of an insulin pump since he was 6.

“I remember the first time I had to give Gavin a shot in his belly; he was 5 or 6 years old, he was wire thin (and) there was no fat there,” Crozier said. “I called my wife in tears. I was so difficult. I felt like I was hurting him, and I was helping him. But it was very, very difficult as a parent to do.”

A friend of a friend in the LPGA Tour helped him Crozier get an invitation to play a practice round at the U.S. Women’s Open in late May; the round at Charleston (S.C.) National marked the trip’s second day. Gavin joined his father through round 10 in Texas. Other family members and friends helped Crozier through the driving, which led to Pebble Beach, Calif., and a visit to the men’s U.S. Open on June 12 followed shortly thereafter by red-eye flights for rounds in Hawaii, Alaska and Oregon.

Crozier has played three two-course, two-state, 36-hole days to accommodate for air travel. He’s been blessed by ideal weather. He didn’t play through rain for the first time until Day 28 in Nebraska. He got called off a course in Chicago by lightning but returned to play 45 minutes later. He saw snow in Montana, 100-degree heat in Nevada. He’s driven more than 10,000 miles and flown another 6,000.

Four golf course companies heard his story and provided more than half of his rounds, Crozier said. The rest came from calling around to places such as Montcalm, one of whose owners has experience with Type 2 diabetes and was eager to help.

“It’s all worked to form,” he said. “Haven’t missed a tee time yet.”

And the journey’s soon to end.

Crozier’s youngest daughter, 13-year-old middle-schooler Tess, joined him at Montcalm on Friday. He played in Maine on Saturday, was due in Rhode Island on Sunday and is set for Green Hill, his father’s course in Worcester, on Monday. Gavin will be on hand, as will Sarah, other family members and friends.

Crozier expects a lot of reminiscing. He also hopes to hit his target donation number by then, too. Fifty for Father will be his Crozier Open for this year.

“My brother actually still wanted to have one in August,” he said. “I said, ‘Dude, I just took 50 days off from work. I don’t think that will fly.’

“I get to do something I love, with people I love, for people I love and make the world a better place. How lucky am I?”

Crozier’s tour had raised $43,995 for the JDRF as of Friday. Learn more at www.fiftyforfather.com.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.

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