Harringtons' fight propelled by love, support
9 Min Read
Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin
Scott and Jenn Harrington moved by support for her cancer battle
NORTH PLAINS, Ore. – Nearly seven years ago, Scott Harrington and Jennifer Thomas were set up for a blind date through a mutual friend.
Harrington had a tee time the next morning in a mini-tour event, but the date ended up lasting “a lot longer than I expected,” he recalls.
While enjoying a meal at Phoenix establishment Postino, the pair bonded over a love for animals – Scott had a French bulldog, Reggie, and Jenn had a Sheltie, Hog – as well as a passion for sports.
Or so Scott thought.
“She talked about how she was a big sports fan,” Scott recalls. “We started dating in the fall, when football season was going on, and she was all-in on, ‘Yeah, we should go watch the game somewhere with some friends.’
“After she had sucked me in, it became apparent that she didn’t really watch sports that much at all. She went to the University of Arizona; she said, “Let’s go watch the Arizona game.” I don’t know if she’s watched an Arizona game since then. I give her some crap for a little false advertising there.”
That bit of false advertising didn’t hinder the relationship, though. Scott and Jenn, who works in commercial real estate, dated for four years before becoming engaged in late 2015.
They married at Phoenix’s Wrigley Mansion in December 2016 – “the best night of our lives,” he recalls.
Scott was drawn to a variety of Jenn’s traits – her humor, goofiness, love for playing jokes on friends and making others laugh.
Most notably, though: her selflessness.
“She is extremely selfless; sometimes I want her to actually maybe take care of herself first,” Scott said. “She is so giving to others and has always cared so much more about others than herself. That is for sure her most redeeming quality.”
In the midst of her second battle with cancer, this trait continues to shine through.
Jenn was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a blood cancer in the same family as leukemia, in July 2017. She underwent treatment last fall and was deemed in remission, but a six-month scan in May revealed that the cancer had returned.
In a decision that “wasn’t much of one,” Scott says, the longtime Web.com Tour member opted to take a competitive leave to support Jenn in her fight (he’ll play under the Special Medical/Family Crisis category when he returns).
Jenn’s current treatment cycle involves chemotherapy every three weeks. In between treatments, “for the first two weeks, it’s misery, and the third week gets a little more manageable,” Scott said.
This week’s WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft-Heinz, Scott’s hometown event, falls on the cycle’s third week.
In an example of that selflessness, Jenn insisted that Scott compete.
“She told me one-and-a-half weeks ago, out of the blue, she said, ‘You know what; I want you to go play.’” Scott said. “This tournament happened to fall on that third week; she can be a little more independent and take care of things herself.
“She’s on her feet a lot more, and she knows how special this tournament is to me, being my hometown. And not to mention, hey, if lightning strikes and I have a great week, I could also get a TOUR card.
“That’s her goal for me, and every one of us, we have that goal.”
Following the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation in May, Harrington took his competitive leave.
The nature of professional golf, with no guaranteed contracts and merit-based income, meant that Scott would be without income as he returned home to support Jenn in her battle.
Enter the Web.com Tour family.
The idea was proposed by veteran Scott Langley at a Player Advisory Council meeting, who recommended a fundraising effort to support the Harringtons.
It was met with unanimous approval, and a GoFundMe page was set up. Donations came from across the golf community, with Web.com Tour rookie Sam Burns (who had never met Harrington) even committing $100 per birdie for the season, beginning at the Lincoln Land Championship presented by LRS in June.
The fundraiser began with a goal of $150,000.
During last week’s Ellie Mae Classic, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (who competed on a sponsor’s exemption) brought the campaign into the national spotlight.
Curry, a three-time NBA champion, called Harrington before Friday’s second round at TPC Stonebrae. The two had a wide-ranging chat that touched on golf, basketball and Jenn’s fight.
After signing his second-round scorecard, Curry announced that the Ayesha and Stephen Curry Foundation would be donating $25,000 to the cause.
“I can’t put into words, the thoughts and feelings around what their family is going through,” Curry said at TPC Stonebrae. “It was a good conversation this morning I had with him, just to let him know … everybody that I’ve talked to that knows him, says so many great things about him and his family, and are thinking about him during this tough time right now.”
Needless to say, Scott and Jenn were blown away by the gesture.
“It was surprising, and it was awesome,” Scott said of the phone conversation. “It wasn’t just a talk like, ‘Hey, here’s what we’re going to do.’ We talked for 10 or 15 minutes, and you could tell how genuine of a guy he was. He truly cared. He wanted to know what it was like, what we were going through.
“We joked about the NBA; we were joking about his golf. He is just such a big figure in sports, one of the biggest athletes there is going right now, and for him to hear our story and be compelled to want to do something to help out … it’s crazy. It’s hard to put into words.
“I’m a huge NBA fan … I’m a (Portland) Trail Blazers fan, so I can’t be a Warriors fan, but I’ve always enjoyed Golden State play, and I respect the heck out of his game. He’s certainly fun to watch. It was really cool, and really special.”
Powered by the donations of Curry, Burns and countless others, the Harringtons have surpassed the $150,000 fundraising goal.
Now, they have the opportunity to pay it forward.
For the remainder of the Web.com Tour season, through the Finals, all funds raised via the GoFundMe page will be redirected to the Portland-based Children’s Cancer Association, which provides emotional, financial and educational support to children with cancer, their families and survivors.
“Their mission is to provide joy to children and families going through cancer,” Scott explained. “It’s a really dark time for people going through chemo, which we’ve experienced firsthand. It’s especially hard to imagine any children going through this, so anything that can bring some joy and some hope … tons and tons of people are going through this without financial assistance, and could really use the support.”
Upon the conclusion of play this week at Pumpkin Ridge GC (Witch Hollow), Scott will return to Phoenix to rejoin Jenn in the fight.
The goal is for the first round of chemotherapy to be completed next month. If the scan is clear, Jenn will move on to a bone marrow transplant, which Scott describes as “the hardest part of this whole process since we started, a really difficult three-month endeavor that requires a lot of hospitalization and a lot of care.”
“It’s very difficult,” Scott said, “but if that’s what it’s going to take to keep the cancer away, then we’ll do whatever’s necessary.”
It was the Friday of the Knoxville Open, three months ago, when Jenn learned that the cancer had returned.
Scott had a late tee time, with Jenn slated for an afternoon appointment to receive her scan results. They had discussed whether she’d let him know during the round. Jenn decided she wanted to tell him after the round.
Still, Scott figured that if the news was good, Jenn would let him know immediately. He found himself checking his phone “every 15 minutes” during the round. Nothing came in.
“I played OK, but the last nine holes, I remember thinking, ‘This is bad news; this is bad news,’” Scott said. “Sure enough, I remember turning my phone on … just sitting in the parking lot, she broke the news to me.
“I sat in the rental car in the parking lot for an hour; we were talking and it was really, really difficult. It was really tough to play the next couple days, that was for sure.”
Scott knows that the life of a traveling Tour pro requires being all-in. He’d be doing Jenn a disservice, and his career a disservice, if he tried to simultaneously maintain a tournament schedule and support her as best he could.
They knew the financial situation could be difficult. Thanks to the support from a variety of sources, though, they were able to reach their goal … and begin to pay it forward.
“I don’t cry much,” Scott said, noting a dunk-tank fundraiser the Tour’s operations team held during the Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Heartland Chevy Dealers last month in Omaha. “I’ve cried more in the last year than I ever cried in my life. It’s touching, and just thinking about it, it gets me pretty emotional.
“I can’t put into words how appreciative we are of everybody. We’ll never forget the type of love we’ve gotten; it starts up top (with Web.com Tour President Dan Glod) and has fed down.
“We’re forever indebted. It’s really something, and there’s nothing to say but thank you.”
For those who got involved, though, the decision to lend support was a no-brainer.
“I think the way that my parents raised me … is always try to help somebody,” Burns said. “If you could, then do it, especially somebody that is in the same field as I am, a professional golfer on the Web.com Tour. It just felt like there was an opportunity to help, and I wanted to do all that I could.”
“It’s kind of a big family out here,” added Langley. “When we heard the news about Scott, knowing him personally, living in Arizona near him … it’s no secret that taking time off from playing golf, when you’re a pro golfer, takes money out of your pocket. That’s the reality.
“It exceeded my expectations, but it hasn’t really surprised me. It shows the generosity of guys out here, players on other Tours that know Scott.”
As for his performance in that mini-tour event, the morning after the first date?
“I think I had a chance to win going in,” he recalls. “I definitely didn’t win.”
A small price to pay, though, for finding the love of his life.
Kevin Prise is an associate editor for PGATOUR.COM. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.