Golf Fights Cancer: A passion and purpose for golf

Golf Fights Cancer (GFC) is a 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to helping organizations that combat cancer through partnerships, grants, and golf-related events. The two men behind the organization are PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan and longtime New England sports executive Brian Oates.

GFC began in 2003 when Monahan and Oates lost a good friend, Rob Stevens, to cancer. The pair decided to run the Boston Marathon to raise money in support of Stevens’ family. Since then, the organization has partnered with several different agencies and has grown into one of the most successful and popular charitable groups in the Northeast.

“Jay and I shared the same vision and inspiration,” says the 50-year-old Oates. “We wanted to give back in a positive way. To do so, we needed to get people involved and motivated. It’s hard to believe that this has been going on for 18 years, but we are really proud of all of the people who have joined us.”

Oates has worked for The Kraft Sports and Entertainment Group as Executive Director of Sales for 15 years. He has also worked in sales and marketing for the Red Sox, Comcast Sports Net, the PGA TOUR’s Bank of America Championship, Boston Bruins, and the Bay State Games. He knows the power of golf in bringing people together for a unified cause.

“Golf is the great connector,” he offers. “Golf Fights Cancer combines our passions for both the game and making a difference. People are definitely motivated to help. Our organization provides the structure and support for them to do so.”

The man they call Oatsie is planning on running his 25th Boston Marathon this year. This traditional and time-honored event has been a key aspect in the success of Golf Fights Cancer. Says Oates, “The Marathon was the first fundraising event we ever did, and it remains an important part of our history and impact.

“Last year, because of COVID-19, the race was virtual, but we still raised nearly $400,000. That was amazing. The pandemic has created some uncertainty this year as well, but we really want to thank John Hancock for their sponsorship of the Marathon and for helping us do a lot of good.”

Since 2003, Golf Fights Cancer has granted over $7 million to 70 different cancer-related charities including the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, Beat Childhood Cancer, Team IMPACT, One Mission, Tough Warrior Princess, and numerous others.

One of GFC’s most recent beneficiaries is DetecTogether, a non-profit whose mission is to save lives by educating firefighters, and others at risk, to detect cancer early and take an active role in their healthcare.

Oates reflects on the partnerships and friendships formed. “We try to identify programs that are in need. We collaborate with them and share what we do well. We hired our Executive Director Cheryl McGuire eight years ago and she has taken us to a new level.”

Clearly, the feeling is mutual as McGuire expounds on her passion for GFC. “It truly transcends career and emulates family. The culture of our small non-profit started off with board meetings held at a kitchen table. That same sense of community continues to this day.

McGuire avers that GFC takes its lead from Oates and Monahan. “Having Brian and Jay together as our leaders provides strategic direction and endless personal connections to help drive our mission.

“We provide those touched by cancer with an opportunity to make a profound difference in the lives of cancer patients and their families. Our supporters trust us to find impactful granting opportunities. Their collective gifts are directed towards cancer-related financial relief programs, community hospitals, summer camps, survivorship programs, research, and more.”

Monahan has been with the PGA TOUR since 2008 and officially succeeded Tim Finchem as Commissioner in 2017. Despite his profound responsibilities, he remains a key part of GFC. Says Oates, “Jay is as committed as ever to our organization. We always stay connected and in communication.

“GFC has had a great relationship with PGA TOUR players. Brad Faxon has been a donor and supporter. When Gary Player turned 85, he used social media to ask everyone to donate $8.50 or more to Golf Fights Cancer. That was very cool.”

Monahan and Oates have assembled a driven and committed Board of Directors. John Dias of Adage Capital explains what drew him to the GFC board. “To be able to get up close and witness the tangible benefits of our collective gifts makes it easy to raise funds for GFC each year.

“I appreciate the fact that I know precisely where our grants are going, and that these grants with have an immediate positive impact on treatment for both the patient and family.”

Fellow board member Jim McCloud of Entercom adds, “Everyone who is tied to GFC has some sort of personal connection to cancer. During the time I’ve been running the Boston Marathon, I’ve lost my father, two aunts, and an uncle to cancer, so I have a deep, personal connection to the fight.

“The best part of being a board member of GFC is to see how many lives we touch and affect every day. I’m proud to be associated with such a great organization.”

Board member Dianne Lynch works for One Summit, an organization whose mission is to build resilience in kids battling cancer through experiential learning with Navy SEALs, storytelling, and community engagement.

Her son Jack was the recipient of the first ever Golf Fights Cancer grant check. “Being a part of GFC has been the one consistent path in our ability to honor our son Jack during and after his cancer battle.

“Through GFC, we have been able to help support the institution, staff, families, and non-profits that played a significant role in his young life. As a family, we are all dedicated to GFC and foresee a future for our boys to grow with the organization fulfilling the need to celebrate their big brother and support the cancer community.”

Lynch, a cancer survivor herself, puts GFC’s mission in perspective. “Cancer is relentless, and the needs of patients and families are immeasurable. Golf Fights Cancer doesn’t shy away from programs that may be overlooked by others.  We have focused on funding direct impact initiatives. Our approach is targeted, meaningful, and measurable.”

On June 3 and 4 at Juniper Hill Golf Course in Northborough, MA, Golf Fights Cancer will hold one of its most popular events, the Golf Marathon. Individuals and teams can register to play 100 rounds of golf over the two-day period.

Oates relates, “Our first Golf Marathon raised $36,000 in 2008. We now have a goal to raise $500,000. It’s a great event because families and friends play together and really enjoy it.” Check out golffightscancer.org for information on all GFC events and to donate or get involved.

GFC started with a couple of buddies trying to help out a friend’s family. 18 years later, family remains the core theme. “It really has come full circle,” says Oates. “Rob Stevens’ son Robbie has played in our events. Cheryl’s son plays, and my family as well as Jay’s are involved.

“For us, it’s all about inspiration and opportunity. This year, we will have hundreds of people play in events or help us fundraise. Jay and I are proud of what has been accomplished, and we want to continue to use golf to respond to the needs of the cancer community.”


John Molori is an award-winning author and columnist for numerous publications. Like him on Facebook at John Molori, Twitter @MoloriMedia. Email molorimedia@gmail.com.