Confucius said: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
DJ Gregory took an unlikely and inspiring journey of nearly 1,000 miles on last year's PGA Tour, but before he could take a single step, he had to start with a dream.
Gregory, now 31 years old, was born 10 weeks premature and has battled the challenges of Cerebral Palsy his entire life. The chronic conditions affect muscle coordination. In fact, as a child, Gregory's parents were told their son would never walk.
Before the age of 6, Gregory persevered through five surgeries on his legs. He progressed from army-crawling across the floor to a walker, then crutches, and today uses only a cane. He loves the game of golf and plays with a self-taught, one-armed swing.
For years, Gregory followed the pro golfers through statistics, television and trips to PGA events. Then he conjured up his quest.
"I thought, what would it be like," he said during a phone interview from Reno, Nev., "to go to every event and get to know the players, but at the same time, conquer a personal challenge of walking every hole of every round of every event."
With high-profile support from people like broadcaster Jim Nantz, a team of sponsors and the PGA and its players, Gregory's journey began. Each week, he'd choose a different player to follow through the 2008 season, walking each round, each course, each hole, step by step.
The steps were not easy. Gregory's gait is not the carefree glide of the conditioned athletes he admires; it's better described as a determined flat-footed hobble, his cane guiding his reconstructed legs. He walked over grass and gravel, up and down hills and over bridges. He walked through wind and through rain. He fell 29 times and each time got back up to walk some more. Inspired, pros started to put in requests for Gregory to walk with them.
Gregory recorded his experiences, interviews with players, holes walked and even his falls on a PGA web site blog and now in his book, "Walking with Friends."
"Last year was the most incredible year I've ever had," he said. "[It was] the best year of my life."
While he was fulfilling a personal dream, and accomplishing a personal challenge, he also was spreading a very public message.
"When I first started the journey, I didn't do it to motivate people," he said, "but I quickly realized that what I was doing could inspire people and motivate them to set goals for themselves and accomplish their own dreams."
That is the sentiment Gregory still sends as he travels to about 30 tour events this year, in addition to a series of nationwide public appearances.
Gregory will be the guest speaker for a dinner Aug. 22 at Sunnehanna Country Club in Johnstown as part of the Alleghenies United Cerebral Palsy Golf Classic and will bring his positive message to a local audience:
"Never give up on your dream, through hard work, anything is possible."
Goodman can be reached at email@example.com.