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Teeing it up for a friend and to fight Alzheimer’s

POSTED: September 27, 2012 8:56 p.m.
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Rincon Mayor Ken Lee, center, holds a proclamation of support for the second annual David Jimenez Open, to be held Oct. 6 at Lost Plantation Golf Club. Alongside are Joe Fletcher and Arlene Jimenez.

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Even as David Jimenez slipped into the grasp of Alzheimer’s, he continued to play golf and impart lessons about the game he loved.


Today, he’s a resident at Savannah Commons’ Arbors Memory Care facility, but his friends and supporters will be teeing it up at Lost Plantation for Jimenez and the thousands of others afflicted with Alzheimer’s.


The second annual David Jimenez Open Golf Tournament will be held at Lost Plantation Golf Club on Oct. 6, with a shotgun start at 9 a.m., skill contests, prizes and a silent auction to follow. The tournament, a four-person captain’s choice scramble, is open to the first 36 teams, and single players are welcome.


But the main goal isn’t just low scores — it’s raising money and awareness for Alzheimer’s.


“David is marvelous. He’s a wonderful guy,” said his wife Arlene Jimenez. “Everyone loves him.”


Even as Jimenez suffered from Alzheimer’s, the new friends he made at Lost Plantation Golf Club in Rincon, including Joe Fletcher, continued to get him out on the course.


“The members at Lost Plantation were amazing to us,” Arlene said. “When we first moved here, he could still play but could not keep score. Joe took him under his wing and off they would go to the golf course. That was David’s element.”


David Jimenez continued to play until about three years ago, but his impact on his golfing partners continues.


“He had just the greatest manners,” Fletcher said. “He taught all of us at Lost Plantation to congratulate each other when you finish your round. So now we all do that. He got us all taking our hats off. It just make you feel more like a pro.”


David Jimenez started playing golf when he was 8 years old in Puerto Rico, alongside his childhood friend, World Golf Hall of Fame member Chi Chi Rodriguez. They would pick up balls at a local course and began playing from there.


“He knew from an early age golf was his passion,” Arlene said of David.


Jimenez joined the PGA Tour in 1967 and that year had his best career finish, seventh at the Minnesota Open. He was in his third year on the tour when he was driving in Puerto Rico, and a truck hit him head-on. The accident broke his right arm and crushed his left arm.


“They were thinking they had to amputate his arm,” Arlene said. “They told him he wouldn’t play golf again. He told them ‘I will qualify for the tour again.’”


Doctors put his arm back together, and Jimenez rejoined the tour in 1971. He represented Puerto Rico five times in World Cup tournaments.


He became a club professional, becoming head pro at Virginia’s Wintergreen Resort, in 1975 and tied for first at the PGA Club Pro Championship that year. He was an exempt player on the PGA European Senior Tour from 1989-97.


Jimenez was head pro and director of golf at Wintergreen Resort until 1993. The friends he made in Virginia have banded together to sponsor a $25,000 hole-in-one contest at the upcoming tournament in his name.


“His Virginia golf family adores him,” Arlene said. “Some of the cart boys he had at 15 are now head pros at some of the prestigious courses in Virginia.”


David was the head pro at the West Bay Golf Club in Estero, Fla., when he first began to show symptoms. He was only 60 years old.


“You can get it in your 30s,” said Arlene Jimenez. “We’re seeing more and more early onset Alzheimer’s.”


According to the Alzheimer’s Association, someone in the U.S. develops the disease every 68 seconds. Estimates show that by 2050, someone will be afflicted with Alzheimer’s every 33 seconds.


“There’s no treatment,” Arlene said, “and there’s no cure.”


Among the items up for bid at the silent auction this year are a gift card from Wiley’s Home Center in Rincon and a sofa from Ashley Furniture. There are also more than $4,000 worth of rounds of golf, donated by 14 different courses, up for bid, and a golf vacation for four at Wintergreen Resort.


“The silent auction last year was wonderful,” Arlene said.


September is World Alzheimer’s Month, and the tournament also has a team for the Savannah Alzheimer’s Walk, which is the main fundraiser throughout the country.


“The money we raise through that goes to the Coastal Georgia Walk,” Arlene said.


The tournament also allows David’s friends to show off his adopted home course of Lost Plantation, which has undergone extensive work in the last year and a half.


“David would be so tickled,” Arlene said. “It’s such in great condition.”


But the main task is to raise awareness and education about Alzheimer’s and to raise to find treatments. Arlene started an Alzheimer’s support group at her church, St. Luke’s Episcopal, and she also beamed over the Effingham Care Center’s new wing dedicated to Alzheimer’s patients.


“It’s something we all really need to be proud of,” she said.


For more information, visit www.davidjimenezopen.org.

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