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Mike Dowd cried when the call came. His wife, Kelly Jo, lit up with joy. Their daughter, Dakoda, at first didn't know what to make of all the fuss.
"I thought they were going to say, 'You win a new set of golf clubs!'" Dakoda said Wednesday. "Not that I could play in an LPGA tournament."
Kelly Jo is battling breast cancer. Her dream was to live to see her 12-year-old girl play against the stars of the LPGA tour. The Dowds' hopes were unexpectedly fulfilled this week by Bobby Ginn, a real estate developer who granted Dakoda one of two exemptions into his tournament, the inaugural Ginn Clubs and Resorts Open on April27-30 in Orlando.
"I'm fighting for my daughter," Kelly Jo, 40, said from the Dowds' home in Palm Harbor, Fla. "God willing, if I can make it to April, I'll get to see her play."
Kelly Jo thought she beat the disease after being diagnosed in 2002 and appeared cancer-free for two-plus years following surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The cancer returned this year and became incurable.
Dakoda, a home-schooled student, helped the Northside Christian girls team to the Florida Class A state title last year. She shoots in the low 70s, ranks as one of the nation's top junior golfers in her age group and has won 185 trophies.
According to the LPGA, Dowd, who will be 13 on April 3, would be among the youngest to play a tour event, but records are incomplete. Beverly Klass was 10 in 1967 and Michelle Wie was 12 in 2002 when they received exemptions.
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