WEST FORSYTH – Drew Ridings reminds Brad Bridges a lot of a 15-year-old boy he used to practice golf with in north Forsyth. His morals. His honesty. His passion. His Christian spirit.
“Joe was the perfect teenager,” Bridges said. “I’ve never met another teenager like that.”
Ridings, who is set to graduate from West Forsyth High School on June 1, recently became the first recipient of what will become an annual $5,000 scholarship awarded to high school golfers in Forsyth.
But the Joe Dumphy Memorial Golf Scholarship is not just an award for superior athletics.
“Drew’s a very good golfer, but that really isn’t the main standard,” Bridges said. “That’s just the icing on the cake.”
A 19-member board unanimously decided on Ridings for the inaugural scholarship because of who he is and what he has already done to make a positive mark on the world.
Ridings founded the Red Cross Club at West last year, marking the first such club in any Forsyth County school that partners with one of the largest humanitarian organizations in the country.
“How many teens that are also athletes take the time to do something so meaningful?” Bridges said. “I was left thinking, wow. I couldn’t say anything that left me with doubts.”
“I miss him so much”
Bridges started playing golf at the Chestatee Golf Club in 2012.
“I would practice a lot, and it seemed like every day Joe was up there,” he said.
Joe Dumphy, an aspiring golfer and freshman at North Forsyth High School, died from injuries sustained in a car crash. Almost one year later, his parents awarded the scholarship in his honor.
“A lot of the times it would be just Joe and me. He was always smiling, very polite. He was the most exceptional 14- 15-year-old I’ve ever met,” Bridges said. “I miss him so much I can’t even begin to tell you.”
Bridges said Ridings demonstrates the same respect for people.
Ridings, who plans to attend BYU this fall, knew the namesake of the scholarship he was awarded. Played with him, against him.
“Since I knew Joe, when I found out about the scholarship I wanted it more than anything,” Ridings said. “Not for the money, but because I wanted to carry that metaphorical torch with me to college to represent Joe.”
He said in talking with the Dumphy family, he found similarities between himself and the young golfer.
“He and I both wanted to become professional golfers,” he said, “and we would write down our goals to make sure we accomplish them.”
“People cheered for Joe”
Deb Dumphy said Ridings was the clear choice to be the first recipient of the scholarship she and her husband created in memory of their son.
She ran the Boston Marathon in April with her sister for him, raising more than $9,000 for the scholarship fund.
With the extra money, the two runners-up for the scholarship – Adam Gracyalny from South Forsyth and Spencer Ball from Lambert High schools – each received $1,000.
“We ran with shirts that had ‘Joe’ on the front, so for all 26.2 miles people cheered for Joe,” Dumphy said.
They put his picture and his favorite motivational quotes on the back of their shirts.
“The harder I work the luckier I get.”
Dumphy said the run was emotional and plagued with breaking her arm in three places during a 20-mile training run. The break required surgery, nine screws or plates and a full-arm cast during training.
She ran the marathon in four hours and 17 minutes.
“We finished,” she said, “’Joe strong.’”