McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

January 8, 2014

PGA tour star makes surprise visit to tornado survivor

RIckie Fowler host clinic for area high school golfers

MOORE — Jake Reddington doesn’t remember everything. When his house was struck by the EF-5 tornado May 20, he somehow made his way to the bath tub and hid as a twister destroyed his house. Beyond that, the Moore High junior said his memory is fuzzy on what happened.

“Toughest part has been probably having to deal with it all,” Reddington said, “just  wondering what it was really like. I don’t remember the whole story about the tornado. There is a big part that’s missing. The nightmares are really the hardest, just thinking about it. It’s just all hard to deal with. I’m just 16 years old, and look (at) all that’s happened to me.”

When Jeff Dailey, CEO of Farmers Insurance, heard the story of survival, he decided to do something for the community.

With Reddington being an avid golfer, a golf clinic was set up Monday at GolfSmith in Oklahoma City. Every member of the boys and girls golf teams from Moore, Westmoore and Southmoore were invited.

Farmers donated $2,100 to each school, but that was only an appetizer. The biggest surprise for Reddington and the rest of the high school kids took place when pro golfer and Oklahoma State alum Rickie Fowler was the clinic’s host.

Reddington has been an idol of Fowler for several years. Getting to meet him after everything he had gone through almost left him speechless.

“This is something I’m definitely going to remember,” Reddington said. “This is the coolest thing. Whoever would have thought seven or eight months ago, I’d survive a tornado, get to meet Rickie Fowler. It’s a blessing from something that shouldn’t have been a blessing. It’s inspirational. Everything from even going to the same college I want to go to, he has done.”

The only person more excited than Reddington was his mother, Sharon Reddington. She has watched her son go through an emotional roller coaster the last few months and knows how difficult adjusting to life has been since the tornado destroyed everything they had.

“It’s got good days and it’s got bad days,” Sharon Reddington said. “We just kind of see it as a process. There’s anger, sadness. He has really been a trooper. But I think emotionally, the toll on him is nothing you can fathom if you haven’t gone through it yourself. We try to give him the best support we can and people to talk to help him get through it.”

After displaying a few golf tips and answering questions, Fowler presented each of the almost 100 student-athletes with their own autographed golf bag and took photos with everyone.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Fowler said. “Coming in and doing appearances, this stands out for me, to come back to Oklahoma, a state that is close to me. Being I was down the road in Dallas when the tornado came through and tried to help out as much as we could. To be able to come back and hang out with some high school golf kids, pretty cool.

“It’s good to see them come out and see some smiles on some faces and have a good time.”

Reddington was the last one to get his bag. However, Fowler had one more surprise up his sleeve. He invited Reddington to walk inside the ropes at the Farmers Insurance Pro-Am on Jan. 22 in San Diego.

A stunned Reddington could only shake his head in disbelief.

“I still don’t even know what to really think of it,” Reddington said. “I’ve never been to San Diego, let alone go to a golf tournament with my biggest idol. That’s going to be the coolest thing in the world. I’m excited. I’d leave today if they told me I could.”

The high school golf season doesn’t begin until March, and Reddington said he is ready to get the season rolling, especially after meeting Fowler. Even though he and  his family are still living in temporary housing, he’s excited to see what the future will bring.

“It just makes you think sometimes tragedy can turn into blessings,” Reddington said. “It takes time. May 20, my house was gone, and even some of my teammates and other kids from other schools, their houses were gone. Life goes on. Sometimes if you just wait and be patient, good things happen to people.”

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