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Travelers Championship: Gregory '00 GR '02 Continues Inspirational Walk, With Marino

Gregory Small Image The following article appeared in the Hartford Courant on June 18, 2008 and was written by Tom Yantz. (Re-printed with permission of the Hartford Courant).

Please see addendum of Gregory's first-round walk (June 19) as written below by Springfield College Director of Sports Communications Steve Raczynski.

Photo Gallery of D.J. Gregory's Walk at the Opening Round

CROMWELL — - D.J. Gregory's journey has taken him to the mountains of Kapalua, Hawaii, the blossoming flowers of Augusta, Ga., and the stunning seaside vistas of San Diego.

The Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands marks his 25th consecutive week of following a player at a PGA Tour event.

No one's pedometer can match his.

Some call his excursion that will conclude in early November at the Children's Miracle Network Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., "the longest walk on the PGA Tour."

Gregory, who lives in Savannah, Ga., says it's his "most enjoyable walk."

He has cerebral palsy.

"I've had it since I was born," he said. "But I don't view it as a disability. I may do things a little slower, but it hasn't stopped me."

You can spot Gregory in the first round at TPC River Highlands Thursday. This week, he'll be following Steve Marino.

Gregory uses a cane in his left hand for balance.

"I walk slower, two steps to a regular person's one," he said. "My walk is more of a wobble, but I make it through."

Although his stride is shortened and he's a little unsteady on his feet, he hasn't missed a step this season.

"I've always been a huge golf fan," said Gregory, 30. "I'd usually go to six or seven events a year to watch. This is my eighth tournament in Cromwell. To walk with a pro every week, I can't describe what a high this has been for me."

He has been able to do this with the help of donations from Southwest Airlines, Ashworth, Ritz-Carlton Marriott, Footjoy, Outback and Canon. He also has received a Tour media credential and writes a weekly blog of his journey at PGATour.com. He has helped raise money for United Cerebral Palsy.

"He inspires me," said Marino, whose father, Steve Sr., graduated from Glastonbury High School in 1971. "He'll be with me here. It's awesome. It's not easy for him. The first time I was aware of him was watching the Mercedes-Benz Championship at Kapalua on the Golf Channel. He walked up and down those mountains four days in a row. Unbelievable."

Gregory says he has a mild case of cerebral palsy. It's a term that covers a wide range of physical disabilities caused by damage to the brain during development. More severe cases of CP include epilepsy, blindness or deafness.

"I was born 10 weeks premature," Gregory said. "My lungs weren't developed. A blood vessel burst in my brain that controls my legs."

Gregory, who received an undergraduate degree in sports management from Springfield College, hasn't let cerebral palsy deter him from golfing.

"I've got a 36 handicap in golf," said Gregory, 5 feet 4 and 130 pounds. That's the highest handicap possible. He swings the club with his right arm. His left hand holds the cane.

On his blog, he estimates he has walked 503 miles (about 20 a tournament).

"The toughest one was at Kapalua," he said. "The hills, mountains and distances from greens to some tees, wow. The easiest was the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial [in Fort Worth, Texas]. Short and very flat."

There have been a few times that his player has missed a cut, so he has walked the final 36 holes with another player he has previously followed. On his blog, he writes about the experiences and includes his number of falls for the season (17) and sodas consumed (180).

Gregory's father, Don, or mother, Jackie, often walk with him on tour. Two friends from Springfield College, Neil Como and Craig Bowman, are expected to accompany him at the Travelers Championship.

"I've signed autographs, and people who have a disability have come up to me and say, 'You inspire me to try,'" he said. "What more could I ask for? That inspires me to keep on walking, to prove to myself that I can do this."

But Gregory hasn't walked with a winner yet this season. Stuart Appleby looked like a solid possibility Friday when he was the 36-hole leader of the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines South in San Diego. But he shot 79 and 75 in the last two rounds to tie for 36th.

"I hope I'm his guy," Marino said. "Then there will be two winners: me and, of course, always, D.J."

Addendum of Gregory's first-round walk at TPC River Highlands June 19 as written by Director of Sports Communications Steve Raczynski:

It was my pleasure to walk 18 holes with D.J. Gregory '00 GR '02 and his friend, fellow classmate, and fellow sport management major Neil Como '00 today. D.J. served as women's basketball manager for five years (1997-98 through 2001-02) for Head Coach Naomi Graves here at Springfield College. In my mind, it was due in large part to D.J.'s inspirational walk that second-year PGA Tour player Steve Marino birdied three of his last four holes to score a three-under par 67 (a score that D.J. accurately predicted beforehand) after today's first round of play at the Travelers in Cromwell. The playing group of Brett Quigley, Richard Johnson, and Marino teed off from the 10th at 12 noon today. On Friday, the same group will tee off from the first hole at 6:50 am, once again with Gregory and Como in tow. If you can believe it, Gregory and Como intend to walk 36 holes on Friday. They also intend to walk with the Robert Gamez, Matt Kuchar, Ryan Armour group which will tee off from the first hole at 12 noon. Gamez is one of Gregory's best friends on tour. A round of golf at TPC River Highlands is somewhere between a five and six mile walk. (D.J. wears a pedometer to record the exact total). It was great to hear and see a number of people walk up to Gregory today to tell him what an inspiration he is, and at the same time offering many words of encouragement. It has also been wonderful to see all the media coverage D.J.'s cause (raising awareness for cerebral palsey) has generated (e.g. this article by Yantz in the Hartford Courant, an article that appeared in USA Today three weeks ago, a recent article in the New Haven Register, and lengthy TV interviews, not to mention several upcoming magazine articles. This type of media coverage occurs pretty much every week for D.J.) The Travelers Championship marks the 25th straight week he has walked. He has 19 more tour events to go. Following last week's U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego, where he walked all 91 holes to witness Tiger Woods' monumental victory, D.J. flew all day Tuesday to arrive in time for this tourney. There is talk of a book being published on D.J. Gregory once the year is completed. Please stay tuned by reading D.J.'s blog on www.PGATour.com.

It was great to see D.J. so close to his Springfield College home today.

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