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Editorial: giving the gift of life

The ultimate act of giving to another


December 18, 2018
By Mike Jiggens

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

Earlier this year, one golf course superintendent gave new life to a fellow superintendent when, in the ultimate act of selflessness, he donated one of his kidneys to his ailing colleague.

Scott Dodson, superintendent at the Park Country Club in Buffalo, N.Y., had been in the throes of kidney disease for about 15 years and realized two years ago when his health began to slip that it was in his best interests to be placed on the kidney transplant wait list.

Dodson is a Canadian citizen who lives in Fort Erie, Ont. and crosses the Peace Bridge daily to go to work. He marked his 26th season this year at the Park Club and was featured in the July/August 2017 issue of Turf & Rec, recognizing his then milestone quarter-century at the private club.

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Interestingly, he is a third-generation superintendent whose father and great uncle also served as superintendents at Ontario golf courses. His family also includes two superintendent brothers, a superintendent nephew and a niece who is a turfgrass researcher at Olds College in Alberta.

I wasn’t aware of Dodson’s kidney ailment when I originally interviewed him in Buffalo for the Turf & Rec story more than a year ago. The news didn’t reach me until earlier this fall when I read a random Twitter post that acknowledged the successful transplant.

Then, this past October, at a combined gathering of members of the Western Ontario and Western New York golf superintendents associations, Dodson formally introduced the man whose donated kidney helped change his fortunes for the better.

 Twenty members from each of the associations were ready to do battle at the Grand Niagara Golf Club in the 18th annual Fall Classic – a friendly cross-border match play event conceived as a fitting end to yet another growing season. But, first, Brian Conn was properly commended for his personal sacrifice, earning well-deserved applause.

Conn is the superintendent at the Transit Valley Country Club in East Amherst, N.Y. and learned about Dodson’s condition through a mass email circulated among members of the Western New York Golf Superintendents Association. Grieving over the sudden loss of his father a few years ago, Conn said he was stirred by his Christian faith to leap into action, saying it took only 10 minutes for him to understand what needed to be done. He went through the testing process and learned he was a compatible donor.

Dodson had no idea that a new kidney was awaiting him. Conn arranged to visit Dodson at the Park Club in the guise of discussing the course’s recent set of renovations. There, Conn told Dodson of his true reason for the visit.

Through Conn’s sacrifice, Dodson has seen a tremendous improvement in his strength and overall health.

Prior to the journey that brought the two superintendents together, Dodson and Conn were professional acquaintances at best. They would cross paths at association meetings but barely exchanged more than just a few minutes of conversation. Today, Dodson considers Conn a “brother,” and a special bond has developed between not only the pair but among their spouses and families as well.

I’ve played golf twice with Conn during the annual Fall Classic, including last year when we opposed one another in singles play. A soft-spoken gentleman, he truly is the epitome of a giver.

A moving mini-documentary of the Dodson-Conn story has been produced by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and has been uploaded onto YouTube. It perfectly chronicles the recent intersecting of both men’s journeys and will likely leave viewers misty-eyed.

To view the video, click here.