Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 29, 2013

CHINA GROVE — South Rowan rising junior Davis Richards made 10 birdies on his way to winning an American Junior Golf Association event in Raleigh over the Memorial Day weekend.
With each putt that dropped, Richards felt a little warmer inside because he’s playing for a cause bigger than himself this summer.
“Each birdie meant more money raised,” Richards said. “Each birdie gave me a really good feeling.”
Richards, who will turn 16 in July, is a walking miracle. His mother’s due date back in 1997 was Oct. 31. Instead of appearing on Halloween, he arrived 11 weeks early on July 10.
Doctors took him by C-section in order to save his mother’s life, but they couldn’t offer much hope to the family that the baby would survive.
For weeks, Richards was removed from an incubator only for brief periods so his parents could hold him, and his weight dipped at one point to 2 pounds.
Richards and his family give credit to the staff at Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Charlotte’s Presbyterian Hospital for his survival.
“They saved my life,” Richards says. “They took care of me medically and took care of my family emotionally.”
On Sept. 12, with his weight up to 4 pounds and reinforced with oxygen and a breathing monitor, he was allowed to go home for the first time.
Richards was fortunate. There were no lingering effects from his traumatic entry into the world, and it wasn’t long before athletic ability was displayed.
“My parents told me that as soon as I could walk, I would go out in the yard and start swinging a stick,” Richards said with a laugh.
Early in life, he got golf lessons from Warrior pro Brian Lee, and he was well on his way to being one of the county’s many promising young golfers.
Richards had a super sophomore season at South, leading the Raiders to their first county title with a 76. He shot 72 in the NPC tournament. With scores of 73-69 — 142, he tied for third in the 3A state tournament.
Recently, Richards discovered a program to let his skill give something back to the hospital that made it possible for him to compete in golf as a healthy teenager.
“The American Junior Golf Association kind of inspired it all,” Richards said. “The AJGA stresses leadership and I saw that they would set up a website for me. That gave me the opportunity to use my passion for golf to help others.”
Richards’ project is officially called “Birdies for Golf.” He plans to play in nine more two-day AJGA tournaments between now and mid-August, and his sponsors can either make a one-time donation or make a pledge amount for each birdie that he makes in those tournaments. All proceeds will go to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Presbyterian.
Richards says he averages two birdies per round, but his extra incentive and maybe some extra adrenaline led to a whopping 10 birdies over the weekend.
Richards announced his fundraising venture last week and stated his initial goal was to raise $2,000, but it appears he’s going to do better than he dreamed.
“In the first six days, we raised $905,” Richards said. “That’s a wonderful start.”
If you’d like to participate in “Birdies for Golf,” contact Brian Lee at Warrior or Richards at 704-490-6212.