The Inspiring Story of Dustin Barr
Sometimes, a story comes along that has a way of placing everything in perspective. At GLT, we emphasize the importance of developing a process to deliver a positive mental performance in adverse conditions, but the adversity we envision is typically not being able to hit a shot or posting a poor score on a round of golf.
We often forget that golf is merely a game. Regardless of how we perform on a hole, we simply move to the next, tee it up again and hope for a better score.
But life isn’t a game. This is no next round, we don’t get to tee it up again. There are no mulligans, we have no choice other than to take what we are given and do our best to keep going; however, we aren’t powerless. When coping with what life throws at us, we always have the option to fight or surrender.
For Dustin Barr, an amazing young man forced to face unfathomable degrees of adversity, golf may be just a game, but it’s the game that made giving up impossible.
Today, with the help of Brendan Ryan, it is our privilege to present Dustin’s humbling and heroic story.
From Brendan Ryan:
Let me introduce you to Dustin Barr, a sophomore collegiate golfer at Thomas University. As of today, Dustin has recorded two major wins, both against sarcoma, a form of cancer which impacts his pelvis.
I met Dustin when he was 16 years old. Like many 16-year-old young men, Dustin had a dream to use college golf as a way to prepare for a life in golf. Four years later, the dream remains; however, the path has included the highs of winning junior golf tournaments and earning a college golf scholarship and the lows of realizing he had cancer… twice.
In the fall of 2014, Dustin was at school when he started feeling sick; for the past couple days, he had thrown up a lot and just could not hold food down. After continuing problems, he and his girlfriend headed to the hospital. After testing, the doctors returned with the diagnosis: undifferentiated pelvic sarcoma that had spread to his pancreas. Dustin and his parents were shocked. At 16 years old, Dustin had cancer.
Right away, the family set to work. Dustin was determined to beat the disease and continue his passion, and for many months to follow, his life became a series of treatments to combat the disease. Finally, the doctors called with the news he’d waited months to hear. The cancer was gone, he was cleared to return to the game he loved.
Weakened from the surgeries and treatment, Dustin worked hard to regain his strength and get his game back to the level necessary to attract the attention of college coaches. Soon, he traveled to Core Golf Academy. Dustin spent the semester training with an elite staff, including Sean Foley. Each day, he toiled on his game, and it was not long until he regained his strength and was ready to compete. Just a couple tournaments after returning, Dustin won a Future Collegians World Tour Event at Saddlebrook, shooting 71-71, for a total of 142. Just 4 months after defeating cancer, Dustin defeated 54 other players to become a winner in junior golf.
The next day, when I saw Dustin and congratulated him, he was appreciative but was clear that as good as winning felt, what he really wanted was to get the attention of a coach. I immediately made a call to my good friend Peter Ireland, the head coach at Thomas University.
I started to explain the story to Peter. Before I was even half way through, the voice on the other side of the phone stopped me.
“We want him,” Peter interjected. “Thomas Universities wants Dustin Barr here. What do we need to do to make that happen?”
I was in shock. After composing myself, I called Dustin to tell him the news, he was going to have a chance to play college golf. Dustin was going to be a Night Hawk!
After a successful freshman year that included 5 tournaments starts, a low round of 72, and a top 20 finish at the team’s home tournament, Dustin returned home. Dustin was happy with the year, but he was determined to improve and spent the summer working on his game.
Then, the unimaginable occurred. The cancer returned.
Peter Ireland called me with the news. I was in shock. I remember the long silence followed by the chocking in my throat. This was not happening. As soon as I hung up with Peter, I called the Barr family and spoke to Dustin. Calmly, he told me it was true and they were going to take care of it.
Although introverted and shy, Dustin Barr is a fighter, a young man with the type of vision and drive that cannot be stopped. Throughout this process, I have never heard a negative word from the young man. Not one complaint. Not ever. Dustin Barr simply puts his head down and does what he does best, fight for his dreams.
For most of us, a bad day on the golf course has a way of spilling over into our lives beyond the well-manicured grass. We allow those three-putts and bunker shots to become heavier baggage than our golf bags, and we carry that with us until we’re able to get back out there and play another round.
Again, we forget that golf is a game. We become so trapped in a cycle of trying to correct the parts of the game that frustrate us that we lose track of what it is that makes us want to play the game in the first place.
We are golfers, but we cannot let golf define who we are as humans.
The next time you’re loading your clubs in your car and can’t shake the thought of that drive you sent into the trees, remember it’s just a game. Remember what it is you love about the game. Remember how fortunate you are to be able to grab your clubs and spend a few hours out there chasing new low scores.
Remember the numbers on the scorecard don’t define your life.
Most of all, remember Dustin.
I know we will.