How to help
A scholarship fund has been set up in memory of Joe Dumphy for Forsyth County golfers who want to play in college. Donations can be made to The Joe Dumphy Memorial Golf Scholarship, c/o Moore Wealth Management, 210 Washington St., N.W., Suite 106, Gainesville GA 30501.
NORTH FORSYTH — Joe Dumphy’s favorite sport used to be baseball. Before reaching high school, he wrote a Texas Christian University coach with his intentions to play for the college.
He aspired to be a priest at a younger age, but his love for baseball morphed into a dedication to golf. So he wrote another letter to TCU.
When the college found out the 15-year-old had succumbed to injuries he sustained a month after a car crash that killed his 78-year-old grandfather and injured his grandmother, they sent gifts from every sports team the school fields.
“For a kid at that age to have that dedication,” said Sharon Nizialek, a family friend of the Dumphys.
Nizialek was Dumphy’s first-grade teacher at Chestatee Elementary School in northeast Forsyth.
“He always had this competitive spirit. Not that he was mean or aggressive to others. It was all this internal drive to be better,” she said. “I didn’t realize it until later on in the school year.”
The school led a reading program that crowned students who read at least 100 books as 100 kings or queens.
“It was a big deal for someone to get to 100,” she said. “A year or two later, I remember seeing him still have that 300 king crown.”
Nizialek also played math baseball with her class, equating a correct answer equaled a base.
“I thought he was going to jump out of his skin,” she said. “He was so excited.”
‘He focused everything on golf’
Nizialek continued to watch Dumphy grow through his friendship with her son, Drew.
“Every time you saw him, he would be in the front yard hitting off the tee. Or we would come over and there’d be Joe, in the garage swinging,” she said. “No one told him to practice his swing. He just had that from the very beginning.”
He played both baseball and golf for a few years. Before long, golf became the overriding passion.
“He focused everything on golf,” Nizialek said. “It was that same drive. He would just practice. He’d be [at the Chestatee Golf Club] first thing in the morning until they picked him up at 7 or 8 at night.
“[He and Drew] would play 18 holes, and we’d say, ‘You want to come home with us and you can get in the pool?’ He’d just stay. And after the long day, he would have dinner and after he would be in the garage.”
He shot a 75 at the Region 6-AAAAAA tournament this spring as a 14-year-old. By the end of his freshman year at North, Dumphy became the first individual to make state sectionals in the history of the school’s golf program. And he was three strokes away from making the state tournament, according to his coach, Rodney Moore.
He had a golf family at Chestatee Golf Club, Moore said. People of all ages liked to play with him. Until he started beating them.
“I think the ultimate compliment a coach can give,” he said, “[is] he’s the type of kid I’d want my son to be like.”
Andrew Mills, an assistant golf pro at Chestatee, said Dumphy was loved by everyone.
“Kids his age don’t practice sports like that, and that’s all he did,” Mills said. “Seventy-year-old guys played with him. [Age] didn’t matter. I’ve never met anybody like him.”
A community of support
On June 27, Dumphy and his grandparents were involved in a two-vehicle crash when their car was struck as it pulled onto Ga. 400 from Night Fire Drive in Dawson County.
His grandparents had just picked him up from playing golf with Nizialek’s son at the club.
John Joseph Dumphy died at the scene. Joe Dumphy was flown to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta while his grandmother, also in her 70s, was taken by ambulance to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville.
“This whole time Charley [Dumphy’s father] was going back and forth between planning his father’s funeral while trying to help his son and seeing his mother,” Nizialek said. “We set up a site for people to go sit with her. Even just to give her ice chips or put Chap Stick on her lips.
“Someone has been there every day for a month. Some people knew her, but the majority had never met her.”
She is currently in rehabilitation, Nizialek said.
A CaringBridge website set up for Dumphy by Nizialek and another friend, Beth Loedding, detailed his progress to an influx of community support.
Prayers and well wishes constantly flowed in. On Thursday, the site had nearly 23,000 visits.
“His neighborhood provided meals for Charley and Deb [his mother] and Olivia [his sister, a rising senior and soccer player at North]. They’ve even done their yardwork,” Nizialek said.
There were ups and downs, but at first they hoped for a full recovery. Then his pressures increased, and doctors had to medically paralyze him.
“We would put the British Open on in his room, and his pressures would go down,” she said. “They would read posts from the CaringBridge site, and he would show signs of improvement.”
However, after about a month, Dumphy’s brain could not function independently. But his fight was not over.
‘He knew he had to keep going’
Deb Dumphy is a nurse, Nizialek said, and her son used to always ask is this good for my heart?
“He knew that would make him a better golfer to have a healthy heart,” Nizialek said.
Dumphy’s family decided to donate his organs, but his body had to retain brain activity long enough to let medicines filter out of his system.
“He knew he had to keep going … That was a hard thing to go through to see him like that. It was a fight all the way through. But he wasn’t doing it for himself,” Nizialek said. “It took longer than first expected, about six or seven days. Deb never left the hospital.”
Five of his organs were donated. Doctors said his liver will be transplanted in a 50-year-old woman from Georgia in “significant need.”
His pancreas and a kidney will go to an unknown person, while the other kidney will be given to a recipient in California.
But his heart will be donated to a 13-year-old boy from North Carolina. He has been on the donor list for “some time and is in desperate need.”
“It’s still a miracle because it’s going to be someone else’s miracle. Someone else was praying just as hard as us,” Nizialek said. “I just don’t know how people get through something like this if they don’t have the faith that God is in control and knowing that we’re going to see Joe again.
“He’s the one in total bliss now, playing on every golf course with all the old pros. And it’s us who hurt because we miss him, but he’s not hurting.”
Sports writer Michael Foster contributed to this report.