To apply for The Joe Dumphy Memorial Golf Scholarship, visit JoeDumphyGolf.org.
NORTH FORSYTH — It usually takes a lifetime to leave a positive mark on people and pass down a legacy. If you’re lucky. For Joe Dumphy, it took just 15 years.
The aspiring golfer and freshman at North Forsyth High School succumbed to injuries 29 days after a car crash that killed his 78-year-old grandfather and injured his grandmother. That was seven months ago.
Now, instead of focusing on golf tryouts and finishing 10thgrade, only his name and memory live on.
His parents, Deb and Charley Dumphy, created The Joe Dumphy Memorial Golf Scholarship Fund, with community donations they received while and after their son was in the hospital.
The nonprofit will award one student golfer in Forsyth or Dawson Counties with $5,000 to be used toward secondary education. The deadline to apply is March 15,
“We want to reward kids who have the same drive and dedication he had,” Charley Dumphy said. “He played 12 hours a day and just loved it.”
“It exemplifies what Joe was”
He was not just aspiring, though. He was good. Really good.
He shot a 75 at the Region 6-AAAAAA tournament last spring as a 14-year-old.
By the end of his first year at North, he 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, said his coach, Rodney Moore.
But he was not just (really) good at golf, and the scholarship criteria his parents established reflect that.
To be eligible, students must maintain a 3.0 grade-point average. They will be interviewed and must submit letters of recommendation.
The nonprofit’s board of directors, who will choose the scholarship recipient, want to go to golf matches and see how the applicants act on the course, Dumphy’s father said.
“It’s more how they carry themselves. It exemplifies what Joe was,” he said. “It’s not about the number of clubs you belong to, but what did you really do there.”
He left his mark
Being spectacularly athletic, maintaining high grades and demonstrating good character is a lot. For anyone. Let alone being in high school.
Joe managed. More than managed, in fact.
The board for the scholarship program encompasses coaches, teachers and players, all of whom felt a connection to the young teen. Even several retirees who were fond of him, his father said.
He left his mark on adults.
“He knew his place, too. Like when all the older guys he played with would hang around the [Chestatee Golf Club] clubhouse, he knew to go out and play golf and socialize but then when he was done to move on,” he said.
He left his mark on his family.
His older sister, Olivia, a senior at North, had been ready to sign a scholarship to play soccer at Georgia State, but switched to the University of North Georgia this year.
“We could look out of the window from his hospital room at Grady [in Atlanta] and see her dorm,” their father said.
He left his mark on his peers.
The scholarship’s website noted he would “light up when he spoke about who he played with every day … An elementary school teacher once said she was worried to see Joe becoming friendly with a notorious bully, thinking Joe would start getting in trouble. To her delight, Joe’s behavior didn’t change, and the other child became a model student.”
“I think about Joe”
Joe will live on in the scholarship through the help it will give its recipients. But that’s what he would have done anyway.
Sharon Nizialek, a first-grade teacher at Chestatee Elementary, taught Dumphy. He was the same age as her own son, Drew.
Nizialek is one of the three finalists for 2016 Teacher of the Year in Forsyth County. In her application video, she emulates David Letterman’s “Top 10” segment with a list of cards that explain her top 10 ways she builds relationships.
No 9: Hug every student. No. 8: Be a good listener. No. 6: Always start with a positive.
No. 1: Learn from Joe.
“Joe was in my class the year I returned to teaching after my own kids were born. He was so similar to my own son that I remember watching Drew walk down the kindergarten hall without me for the first time. And with tears in my eyes I turned around in my own classroom, and there was Joe,” Nizialek said. “It was almost as if my son, Drew, had never left.”
As the year went on, she said, she realized that every student should be treated the way she would want her own son to be treated.
Nearly 10 years later, she still practices what she learned from Joe.
“Some days, when I’m really tired or busy and a student wants me to get out that messy art project or it’s indoor recess and they want to get the Play Dough out yet again and I really don’t want to, I think about Joe,” she said.
“And I think what would I want Drew and Joe’s teacher to do? And then the answer is always: Get out the Play Dough and the messy art project. So that’s what I do.”