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Going to Xtremes to honor loved one

Diane Vinyard loves to run. Her younger brother, David, loved to play golf.

Neither was much interested in trying the other's favorite pursuit. It wasn't necessary. Their sibling bond was as strong as it could be without Diane risking the frustration of learning to play or David tempting the pangs of running.

All of that changed when David, then 36 and with a wife and two children, died in October 1998 of brain cancer.

It became important for Diane to cross over and put on a golf tournament in David's memory and to benefit pediatric cancer research.

Not just any kind of golf tournament, of course. She had to include running.

So on July 21, Stewart Meadows Golf Course will stage what might be the first Xtreme Golf event in the region, the David James Frost Memorial Open. Using three clubs and going at four-minute intervals, golfers tee up and hit on the first hole, take off running, then hit again, run again, hit again. Whew!

The final score is arrived at by combining strokes and minutes: If you shoot a 45 and it takes you 35 minutes, your score is 80.

For those who don't want to run the entire nine-hole course, there's a tag-team division. Two players use a cart. One plays a hole while the other rides, then they switch on the next hole.

"I wanted to combine our favorite things," says Vinyard, who works in the ICU at Rogue Valley Medical Center and recalls seeing an Xtreme Golf article in Runner's World. "That's how I came up with it.

"It was really important to me to keep his name alive for his children and me and all my family. He was a great guy."

This is her second fund-raising endeavor in her brother's name.

Last year, she raised $3,500, which qualified her for an expense-paid trip to the Paris Marathon as a member of Fred's Team. Fred's Team is so named for Fred Lebow, the founder and director of the New York City Marathon who died of cancer in 1994. Those who raise a specified amount of money receive airfare and lodging to any of a number of marathons. The money goes to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Vinyard raised the money, she says, mostly by "begging" her family.

When she got to Paris and ran the marathon, it proved to be a spiritual experience.

"On mile No. 7, he joined me," Vinyard says of her brother. "I could see him. He was right there talking to me. So I'm sobbing as I'm running through the streets of Paris and he says, 'You know, Sis, you really should be running this for Dad and Grandpa, too, because they're standing right beside me.'"

The two also died of cancer, Vinyard says.

"So I didn't really see much of the sights because my eyes were filled with tears," she says.

As much as she fancies running, David fancied golf and played whenever he could before he got sick. Their father, too, was an avid golfer, and the family lived for a time on the eighth fairway at Grants Pass Golf Club.

David was teaching his son to play when the steroids and other cancer treatments caused his hip bones to degenerate, necessitating bilateral hip replacement surgery.

When he couldn't play like he was accustomed to, he put away his clubs.

"He had the same attitude as Pop," says Vinyard. "If Pop couldn't play a decent game of golf or be a decent companion to his wife, he no longer wanted to be here."

Upon being diagnosed with cancer, David, who worked in the sporting goods department at a Portland Fred Meyer, was given three months to live. He made it three years, living the final six months of his life in Medford, within a mile of his big sister.

"That was cool," she says.

Vinyard won't play in the Xtreme Golf tournament because she'll be busily directing it. And even though David wasn't a runner, she thinks he would have entered for the sake of trying it, then would have looked forward to the barbecue and beer afterward.

"We're not looking for any speed demons," says Vinyard. "We just want everyone to have a good time."

It was suggested by her son that each finisher be handed a beer after holing out at the ninth hole so they could drink a toast to "Uncle David."

"Or just David," she says. "He's not everyone's uncle."

The tournament nearly didn't come off.

Diane's younger sister, Denise, passed away suddenly in May, a victim of viral pneumonia. She was 40. The two girls and David were among five kids and very close.

While Diane was still brainstorming about David's golf tourney, she received a check from her sister. It struck Diane that it was surprisingly early. Ten days later, Denise was gone.

"I was going to cancel the tournament because of what happened to my sister," says Diane, "then everyone pointed out that my sister was the first one to sponsor a hole."

It's only right, then, that she runs this one out.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com

XTREME GOLF TOURNAMENT

WHEN

: Saturday, July 21, 5 p.m.

WHERE

: Stewart Meadows Golf Course, Medford.

COST

: $35 per individual, includes golf, barbecue, beer andpop, door prizes.

FORMATS

: 1) Individual player for nines holes; 2)Two-person tag team, rotating holes and using a cart.

TEAMS

: Two males, two females or coed.

DEADLINE

: July 13.

RULES

: Complete rules will be sent to each entrant afterregistration is received.

DONATIONS

: Hole sponsorships, entry fees and donations aretax deductible. Make checks payable to: D.J. Frost Xtreme Memorial Open. Mail to: Alterra Wynwood, 3033 E.Barnett Road, Medford, OR, 97504.

MORE INFO

: Call Diane at 772-1121, Sandy at 608-9881 orTamara at 858-3391. E-mail: jlshwh@aol.com.