Dave Adamonis Sr., 63, dies of cancer

Dave Adamonis Sr. flanked by his sons, David Jr. (left) and Brad. Adamonis Sr., 63, died Oct. 10.

Dave Adamonis Sr. flanked by his sons, David Jr. (left) and Brad. Adamonis Sr., 63, died Oct. 10.

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Time hadn’t really been on his side.

Which was OK, because Dave Adamonis Sr. had a bottomless reservoir of spirit and an endless line of friends to get him through these last few agonizing years.

You could dwell on the sad news that he died Oct. 10 in a Providence, R.I., hospice after an unrelenting struggle with cancer, but that would diminish the greater picture, which is this: Dave Adamonis Sr., 63, lived a rewarding life built upon a formidable double foundation of family and golf.

There had been so many turns for the worse since Adamonis was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2005. When doctors in Florida on Sept. 27 recommended to the family that hospice was the only recourse, there wasn’t much debate between Roberta and her three children, Kim, Dave Jr. and Brad.

Leave it to Dave Adamonis Sr. to call an audible. The towel wouldn’t be thrown in – at least not yet, not in a fashion he didn’t approve of.

“He had come to Florida to take care of business when he got sick,” Dave Jr. said.

As head coach of the men’s golf team at Johnson & Wales University in Miami, Dave Adamonis Sr. wanted to make sure that everything was in order for his successor, that there were no loose ends. Rushed to a Florida hospital, it was assumed he’d be placed in a local hospice. But the patient said no.

No disrespect intended, but Dave Adamonis Sr. held firmly to two beliefs.

One: If a miracle is what he needed after bouts with four varieties of cancer – prostate, throat and neck, lymphoma, non-smoking lung – not to mention septic shock, a staph infection and countless rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, well, that miracle had the best bet of taking place at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

And, two: If no miracle was in the cards, then he wanted to be back on New England soil, not far from his beloved Rhode Island.

“While we felt (Florida) was the only option, dad said no way. He wanted to go back home,” said his oldest son.

So on a warm Sept. 28 night in Florida, Dave Jr. and Brad, a second-year member of the PGA Tour, organized a mediflight to transport their father to Boston. They wrestled with their emotions, not because the flight was costly, but because there was a good chance their father’s lungs weren’t up for the trip.

“In a way, we knew we were sending him home to die, but it’s what he wanted,” Dave Jr. said.

It was at home nearly 30 years ago when Dave Adamonis, a schoolteacher and former golfer at Providence College, looked at the landscape and decided there was a summer sports void. Youngsters who loved golf had very few competitive avenues.

“When I was kid growing up (in Rhode Island) in the '70s, I had just three tournaments to play in,” said Joe Sprague Jr., executive director of the Massachusetts Golf Association. “There just weren’t a lot of playing opportunities. Dave helped provide those.”

Enter Adamonis’ United States Challenge Cup. Within three years, it was incorporated as a full-fledged nonprofit organization that attracted youngsters throughout New England.

Richer and more-national junior circuits were available, yes, but Adamonis never let the Challenge Cup waver from its core purpose. It was a mini tour for novice players, it was for intermediate players from blue-collar homes, it was a way to bring the gospel of golf to kids who otherwise wouldn’t have met the game’s virtues.

True to its roots, the Challenge Cup set up tournaments at plenty of munis and public venues, but the glory of Adamonis was his ability to reach out as an ambassador of sorts and bring an upscale public facility and posh private clubs into the mix.

Adamonis embraced a truism that sadly gets lost on some folks high-up on the golf food chain – that to invest in junior golfers is to ensure you have customers for life and they in turn will steer their children and grandchildren to the game.

Sounds corny? Most basic moral and ethical concepts are, but the Challenge Cup Series has stood the test of time and passed with flying colors. Hundreds of New England youngsters have nurtured their love of golf and found college, thanks to Adamonis’ idea and the way he built relationships with the American Junior Golf Association and various groups and organizations benefited them even further.

Along the way, he watched with great pride as his sons progressed in the game. Dave Jr. oversees the Challenge Cup, while Brad has made it to the highest level of competition.

In 2008, Adamonis was honored as Golfweek’s Father of the Year. This past year, even as cancer demanded every ounce of his energy, he made it out on several occasions to watch Brad play.

“We feel pretty fortunate, because for the last four-and-a-half years we’ve been able to have him with us, and that’s not always the way it works,” Dave Adamonis Jr. said.

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