Celebrating 20 years of “Passion, Dedication and Commitment”

Published 6:56 pm Thursday, April 4, 2024

By James W. Robinson

Staff Writer

PDC Golf Tournament Founder and Director Rich Humphrey is marking 20 years of celebrating Passion, Dedication and Commitment. 

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The Windsor resident will be hosting the 20th annual PDC Golf Tournament, to be held on Friday, Aug. 2, at Sleepy Hole Golf Course, located at 4700 Sleepy Hole Rd. 

The tournament honors military service men and women while serving as a fundraiser for Dogs on Deployment, a non-profit organization that provides military pets foster homes while their owners are deployed. A post-celebration will also be held at the Smithfield Station on August 3, at 409 S. Church St. in Smithfield. 

“We’ve donated over $100,000, and they appreciate our efforts,” Humphrey said. “They’re a great organization [and] because of the military affiliation in this area, we have a big draw there. We have a big draw from the people that own dogs…”

Humphrey reflected on the origins of the tournament. In 2001 and 2002, he served as a coach for a baseball team called “The Royals” and notes that while the boys had “little ability” on the field, they each aimed to become “the best that they can be.” Among Humphrey’s team was a boy named Brad Fleming, who swung and missed 35 times in a row during his first day of batting practice.

“But you could tell he had a desire to improve and get better. And he was the type of kid that would show up an hour before practice and an hour after practice. And by the end of year one, he became an average player at best because of his work ethic,” Humphrey said.

By year two, Humphrey says Fleming continued to practice during the winter. Likewise, his team finished the season 15 to 1 due to their hard work and effort. That same year, Humphrey was selected to coach the All-Stars, with Fleming being chosen to join the team as well, who unfortunately fractured his thumb two weeks before the games started. Humphrey says Fleming’s passion for the game never wavered.

“Yet he showed up every day at practice while the other kids including my son, they wanted to be out chasing girls or at the beach and you know they want to be everyplace else but on the ball field and Brad was at the ball field chomping at the bit to play and he couldn’t play,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey reflected that before the first All-Star game, he gave Fleming a Southern Chesapeake All-Star hat and an index card.

“It was a four by six index card, and on there, I had written, ‘Brad, thanks for your efforts this year. Because of your passion, dedication and commitment, you became a great ball player, and you’ll be missed.’ I signed it ‘Coach Rich.’”

After the All-Stars ended, Humphrey stopped coaching but remained in contact with Fleming’s parents, as his dad was an assistant coach for the team. In  2005, however, Humphrey received a call on a Monday night notifying him that 16-year-old Fleming was killed in a car accident. While visiting Fleming’s parents the following night with his wife and reminiscing about the team, Humphrey says they insisted he see Fleming’s room.

“I’m climbing the stairway, and Dad starts telling me about this hat that I’ve given Brad and how much it meant to him. He slept with the hat all the time, he wore it to school every day, he never took the hat off, and guess what he was wearing the night he got killed? He had the hat on,” Humphrey said. “It tears at my heart, and the irony of this thing is my son was best friends with Brad as well. So my son very well could’ve been in that car that night.”

Seeing the room, Humphrey says Fleming was like “any other 16-year-old boy” with female posters and a few trophies on his dresser. However, he noticed something familiar on Fleming’s dresser: the index card he gave him two years prior.

“I’ve got the greatest son in the world… but I know my son, if he was given a card like that from a coach, he would have thrown that thing away,” he said. “And obviously, I recognize then that I made an impact on Brad’s life and obviously, he impacted me. So from that moment on, I said, ‘I’m going to keep his memory alive.’”

This led to Humphrey starting the Brad Fleming Memorial Golf Tournament in 2005, with all proceeds going towards student-athletes at Great Bridge High School, where Fleming attended. The tournament raised nearly $150,000 during its 10 years. After Fleming’s parents decided to move, Humphrey wanted to continue the tournament, changing it to the PDC Golf Tournament, focusing on honoring military men and women and their pets. Humphrey talked about what attendees can expect.

“It’s 144 golfers. We obtain close to 75 to 100 sponsors, and that’s really where the money is made on sponsorships, and this year, our 20th anniversary, we’re trying to do things even more special as far as perhaps having a band there at the beginning,” Humphrey said. “One of the [things] that touches people is we actually have military people that come out there dressed in their military uniforms, whether it’s Army, Navy, whatever, and they’ve got their dogs with them. So it’s really a touchy-feely type of thing.”

In honor of the 20th anniversary, Humphrey hopes to raise a minimum of $20,000 and says he and his team are looking for additional sponsorships and businesses to donate. Regarding the future of the PDC Golf Tournament, Humphrey says he hopes to grow the tournament every year and that he’s committed to running the tournament and seeing it to its 25th anniversary.

“The more money that I can raise is, the more money that can go to Dogs on Deployment and support them and the military people in this area and their pets, and just make everybody happy,” Humphrey said. “It’s the most rewarding thing that I do in life.”

For information on donating, call 757-641-9083 or email richandkatie@verizon.net

Donation checks should be made out to “PDC” and mailed to 25058 Tyler Dr. Windsor, VA 23487.