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I interviewed Omahan John Atkinson several days ago about a wonderful opportunity in his life. He was announced the winner on national television of a unique contest sponsored by Golf Digest.
Fifty-two thousand golfers entered, hoping for the opportunity to play this year's US Open golf course in June. Atkinson submitted a 100-page essay and the initial judging placed him among the five finalists. The winner was decided by on-line voting and with support from a network of friends Atkinson easily out-distanced the second place finisher.
It's a two-fold blessing for John. He can pursue his goal of breaking 100 on one of the most difficult golf courses in the world and it gives him a national platform to address a much greater challenge for both himself and many others: lung cancer.
John, who is 39, was diagnosed with the illness a year ago. He and his wife Lori have three children. Golf is a small priority but it gives John the opportunity to draw attention to lung cancer. Like many others, he thought only smokers are afflicted with the disease. John is a non-smoker and has learned through his own circumstance that the disease is much more widespread. He suggests you visit lungcanceralliance.org for more information.
John also has much to offer in terms of his perspective on life. He shared some of that with me during our interview and I've included that video with this blog.
Highlights from his round at Torrey Pines in San Diego will be shown at NBC leading up to the US Open which begins on June 12th. He'll play alongside Matt Lauer of the Today Show, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo and Justin Timberlake.
We'll see if John can break 100 but it's secondary to what he's already accomplished.