Pro golfers walked the prestigious Masters Tournament in early April wearing eye-popping outfits the color of traffic cones and tropical birds. But Bubba Watson stuck with the same understated look every day: white pants and white shirt with pink trim.
Golfer Bubba Watson, center, poses with David Horne, left, and John Williams at the Northern Trust Open. (Photo by Kyle Traynor)
TV announcers questioned what seemed like a clothing quirk. Little did they know it was for a good cause: City of Hope and a children’s charity called Fresh Start.
They also could not have imagined that on the final Sunday he would cover that white shirt with the coveted Masters’ green jacket, an honor given to the tournament’s winner. The victory catapulted Watson to sports stardom and delivered City of Hope a significant gift.
As part of the “Travis Mathew and Bubba Watson Grand Slam Drive for Charity,” golf apparel company Travis Mathew offered 100 polo shirts identical to Watson’s for sale — with proceeds benefiting the children’s charity. Once buyers snapped them up, the company committed $50,000 to City of Hope.
Travis Mathew will offer different Watson replica shirts for each of professional golf’s four major golf tournaments this year, with $50,000 per tournament destined for City of Hope when shirts sell out. More support will come in other ways.
It is fitting that the idea traces its beginnings to a golf course. That is where Jack Suzar, former chair of City of Hope’s board of directors, played with Travis Mathew’s founding investor, John Kruger, of Huntington Beach, Calif., in a tournament several years ago. Suzar told Kruger about City of Hope and its mission.
Intrigued, Kruger began donating to the institution and visiting its labs.
He wanted to make a bigger impact, though. Rick Leonard, associate vice president of development, told him about a way his giving could result in a tangible payoff: by supporting work by David Horne, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Molecular Medicine, and John C. Williams, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular medicine.
The scientists are launching studies of meditopes, a new potential tool against cancer. Meditopes are a sort of molecular cargo that can be customized and delivered to fight cancer in different ways. Meditopes used for imaging can be designed with a radioactive piece to make them glow on scans, for example; other meditopes can be loaded with chemotherapy.
Horne, Williams and their lab members are designing meditopes with the goal of getting them to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for review, launching manufacturing in City of Hope’s chemical GMP synthesis facility and pushing them to phase I clinical trials within five years. They need funding to get there.
Kruger saw the opportunity: The Kruger family committed to giving $1 million through Travis Mathew. The giving drive was a natural fit for Watson, too.
When Watson met Horne and Williams at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles earlier this year, he told the pair about losing his father to throat cancer in 2010. His father had taught him to play golf and instilled his strong work ethic.
The golfer mentioned that his father decided at one point to avoid intense therapeutics to treat his cancer, a choice Williams understands. His own father faced a similar decision. Feeling vulnerable and upset with the limited options available to fight cancer, “he asked us quite bluntly if there was any hope,” Williams said.
The scientists talked about the difficulties of battling cancer — how the body must fight against an abnormal version of itself — but gave reasons for hope. They also described how their research aims to find less intense treatments that reduce side effects by specifically targeting cancer, leaving other healthy tissue alone.
During their talk, Watson introduced the two scientists to Jake Olson, a teenage boy who lost both eyes to retinoblastoma. “Jake Olson’s positive outlook on life and mission to help advance a cure for cancer, especially at his young age, was the most inspirational experience I have personally had,” said Horne, an avid golfer and golf fan. “It makes us all want to work harder and to do the best we can as scientists to discover new effective treatments and cures, and as ambassadors to raise public awareness to help defeat this disease.”
Kruger said: “We feel blessed to be able to sponsor leading-edge treatment options at City of Hope. All of us have been impacted by cancer in some way.
“We pray for friends and loved ones battling this disease, and we feel God expects action on our part as well. After meeting with Drs. Horne and Williams, and hearing their plan, we felt moved to contribute and let their research be further explored.”
Williams appreciates the chance to explain the research and why it matters. “We absolutely need this kind of support to develop this novel technology to get it to the clinic,” he said.
To learn more about the drive, go to www.travismathew.com/media, click on “Features” and select “TW + BW Grand Slam Drive for Charity.”