How young cancer survivors are bringing some style to the PGA Tour


Ally wasn’t interested in Rubik’s Cubes until she made her way home to New Jersey after a seven-month stay at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

She was diagnosed with brain cancer at 11 years old, underwent radiation, then seven grueling months of chemotherapy. Upon her return home, she picked up a Rubik’s Cube and solved it for the first time at 12 years old.

Ever since, it has been an important part of her life. So when she was approached to design her own golf shoe for Abraham Ancer to wear at the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, she knew exactly what to draw.

“[The Rubik’s Cube has] kind of become like an icon to me, which is why I drew one for the shoe,” Ally said. “I honestly never thought my art would be picked for anything, let alone as a shoe design, so when I heard the news, I just couldn’t believe it.”

Ally has loved golf ever since her dad taught her at 3 years old. She has participated in two Pro-Am events during the St. Jude Classic tournament and is on her high school varsity team.

So she ecstatic to get the opportunity from FootJoy to design a shoe for a PGA Tour pro.

This is the second year FootJoy and FedEx have partnered with St. Jude and its patients — both this week’s event and the hospital are in Memphis, Tennessee — to help create custom shoes for tour players to help raise awareness and funds through the Birdies for St. Jude program. In 2019, Justin Thomas received custom shoes from Bailey, and later surprised Bailey with an autographed pair of shoes in his size.

Thomas, along with Ancer, Cameron Smith and Webb Simpson, will have the opportunity to wear designs from four patients this year. Thirty other players will have a collage print representing all of the custom designs in one.

“When FootJoy came back to me this year and asked to do this again, I didn’t hesitate. I was all in,” Thomas said. “Meeting Bailey and his family was such an amazing experience last year. FootJoy showed me the artwork from this year’s group of St. Jude patients and man, they are all so cool — but I just had to have the pizza one!”

This year, Thomas’ shoes will feature a pizza print designed by Nate, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 8 years old and was at St. Jude for treatment.

Nate was in the hospital for nearly a year, underwent brain surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, and is now cancer-free.

“For these special shoes, I drew a pizza, my favorite food,” Nate said. “I like pizza a lot, even though I threw it up all through treatment. I told my mom I could eat it every day. I hope you enjoy these shoes and I hope my artwork brings some good luck.

“Thank you so much for helping St. Jude so they can help kids like me.”

Simpson will wear a crown pattern designed by Caleb, who said he likes to play video games and draw in his spare time.

“The inspiration behind my drawing was that the crown represents winning,” He said. “And the rainbow represents love and family. To the players, I hope you enjoy the shoes!”

Smith will wear a koala print designed by Dakota, who has been battling leukemia for the past three years. During that time, he has developed a love for golf and has used it as therapy.

At first, Dakota was just hitting pitch shots, but over the past two years, he has been getting better and better and continues to grow his love for the game.

“I completed my treatment in January of this year, and a few weeks later, made my first hole-in-one,” Dakota said in a message for Smith, an Australian. “Golf has become my passion. I would really like to play college golf for a Division I school and hopefully play on tour with you one day. I hope you like the shoe I helped design.

“I drew a koala because it is my favorite animal and also to remember the country of Australia and their horrible bushfires.”

Dakota went on to say it has been a devastating time for Australia, and hopefully his shoe design helps bring some attention to the country.

The shoes are special for both the players and the children who designed them, and St. Jude and FootJoy are hoping they help bring more awareness to their cause throughout the week. The shoes worn by the players will be autographed, collected and auctioned off to help raise funds for Birdies for St. Jude.

“To be able to use our platform to share these incredible patient stores and showcase the artwork that is such a key piece to their treatment is incredibly touching,” Simpson said. “I was excited to hear that FootJoy was expanding this program for 2020 and knew immediately that I wanted to get involved.”

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