Father and son pledge to beat brain cancer for lost wife, mother

The father and son duo is knocking at the door raising of $1 million for brain cancer research.

Jay Pittman did his best to teach his son, James, the proper golf swing. What he didn’t expect was for his son to switch things up.

“He tried to teach me to swing right handed but I turned the club around,” joked James. “He just hates to admit I’m better than him sometimes.”

They are father and son as much as they are rivals. The duo spent Wednesday afternoon on the fairways of East Lake Woodlands Country Club in Oldsmar, where Jay served as Director of Golf for eight years.

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“It’s home,” said James, who spent “dawn until dusk” practicing on the club’s two championship-length courses.

Jay’s wife, Melissa, worked in the clubhouse. She was spunky and didn’t play golf. In 2008, she was diagnosed with brain cancer.

“Doctors gave her six to 18 months to live,” said Jay.

That was not the case. She fought for eight years and died in 2016.

The year after she was diagnosed, the family started the Golfers vs. Brain Cancer foundation with a goal of finding a cure. The first event netted 192 players and raised a little over $50,000.

The tenth-annual event is set for November 15-16 at East Lake Woodlands. In total, the events have raised over $820,000 for brain cancer research. The money is donated to Moffitt Cancer Center and Johns Hopkins Hospitals.

“A million dollars seemed like a pipe dream down the road and here we are right on the doorstep of a million dollars,” said Jay. “We like to say we hope this is the last one because we hope that the researchers at Moffitt and Johns Hopkins come over and say ‘Hey, we found it. We got it. We got the cure’.”

The 2018 event is put on by Lokey Motors. Dozens of sponsors have signed up to help the Pittman’s reach their goal of $1 million, including companies like Adidas, ClubCorp, and Hooters. The tournament begins with a shotgun start on November 16 at 12:30 p.m. The night before, local band The Black Honkeys will perform. Auction items are available. Jay expects 280 golfers to participate.

The goal is to honor the woman who will not be there and carry out her mission to cure cancer.

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“You know mom’s not here and there is a lot we’d do to get her back,” James said from a golf cart as his dad nodded in agreement. “At the end of the day she left this earth with a mission. There is a purpose that a higher being has plans for all of us and she wanted to make it a point that we have to find a cure.”

To register for the event, visit the GVBC Foundation website.

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