HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC (WSAV) – From players to their wives to caddies, tv crew members, and staff, the PGA tour is a family. Traveling with one another almost every week.
But for the last 14 years there’s been one more member of the family who has one job, to walk.
“Hey, how are you.”
“Who are you with, Simpson?’
For the 2021 RBC Heritage, DJ Gregory is walking the course with Kevin Kistner.
But he is more than just a fan, he’s the most popular guy on the course, a place where everyone knows his name.
“Hey DJ it’s good to see you.”
“Good to see you too.”
From the tv crew members to the players’ mothers.
“So good to see you! Are you following Kev. Yeah. Yay.”
DJ is a man who has never taken a swing in an actual tournament. He only plays a few times a year, walks slowly, with a cane.
For this man with cerebral palsy, who was born 10 weeks premature, and has had 11 surgeries in his lifetime: five on his legs and six on his eyes, who was told he would never walk at all, much less on a golf course, just getting out here at all is a victory in itself.
“I have had six surgeries on my legs and one was to untangle my legs and they had to cut your abductor muscles and your abductor muscles are the ones that control your balance,” explained DJ. “So since mine were cut it’s the reason I have no balance.”
But his disability hasn’t ever stopped DJ. He had a dream in 2008, to walk every round at every PGA tournament.
“I probably take 3 steps to your one step, says DJ. “But I’ve done it all my life so I am used to it. I don’t look at it as any different.”
15,000-17,000 steps every round. While he has found a few shortcuts to make it easier, it’s still a challenge.
“You fall down sometimes?”
“Yes, of course.”
“But you pretty much fall, laugh about it, and move on?”
“Yeah pretty much and we laugh about it too,” smiles DJ. “It’s all about the love.
“He would be mad at us if we ran over and tried to help him up,” laughs Doug Milne from the PGA Tour.
“Doctors told his parents he would never walk. Look how that turned out we can’t stop the guy,” said Milne.
Doug Milne, a Senior Manager with the PGA tour was tasked to help DJ that first year and has been with him every step of the way since.
“Doug would you mind taking him under your wing, showing him the ropes, helping him out,” remembers Doug Milne, a Senior Manager for the PGA Tour back in 2008. “I’m thinking honestly a whole week every week of the year? Ok, I’ll do it. At the end of the first year DJ is like when are we starting back up, when are we coming out, I’m doing this again next year.”
“He and I are now best of friends,” smiles Doug. “We do everything from stay together on the road to stay in the same hotel room and we bicker like Ozzie and Harriet really. We have a great time and it wouldn’t be a PGA tour event without DJ out here.”
For the last 14 years, DJ walks with a different player each week. A fixture at every tournament, making new friends on and off the course.
“I love what I do. I have some of the best friends out here. They look out for me the weeks I’m out here,’ says DJ. “They believe in what I do.”
“At first we thought it’s going to be a challenge to find a player every week, but there’s no downside to it,” explains Doug. “He doesn’t ask anything of the players. If they want to donate they can donate any amount to his charity. There’s no minimum. And they don’t have to donate anything. He just wants to be out here and rub elbows with the players and raise money for the kids.”
Raising money for kids and charity has become DJ’s daily job, and his new dream.
That’s why he wrote a book about his experiences on the Tour and created the Walking for Kids Foundation
A charity which has raised $935,000 in 14 years -and raised the spirits of many people just like DJ.
“Never give up on your dreams and through hard work anything is possible,” says DJ. “Don’t take no for an answer. I’ve never taken no for an answer in my life and it’s why I am here where I am.”
But don’t get DJ wrong, even when it comes to walking, he’s still competitive.
“Do you have one experience that is better than any others?”
“When we win that’s kind of fun.”
“Do players think you are a good luck charm?”
“Some do yes. Others think I’m a black cat. Bad luck.”
He’s brought players some luck. His players have won 7 times so far with DJ behind them. A number he hopes will keep growing.. as he keeps going.
“I am the luckiest guy in the world. I walk golf courses for a living. What can get any better than that.”
DJ is now fully sponsored for his travel and expenses, and takes a total of two weeks off for the entire year, right around Christmas. Even after 14 years, and the toll it takes on his body, DJ says he has no plans to stop anytime soon.