David Lawlor was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease seven years ago, but that didn’t stop him from hitting the links with his fellow golfers on Monday.
The fourth annual First Tennessee Nashville Predators Brent Peterson Celebrity Golf Classic, hosted by the Nashville Predators Foundation and Peterson Foundation for Parkinson’s, took place on Sept. 15 at Vanderbilt Legends Club. Predators players, as well as local and national celebrities alike intermingled with hundreds of golfers, all opening their wallets in support of raising awareness for Parkinson’s research.
“Just standing here overwhelms me,” Lawlor said. “It numbs me to think these people are actually helping me and they don’t even know me and I don’t know them. It’s just fantastic.”
A brain disorder that causes neurons in a certain part of the brain to die or become impaired, Parkinson’s disease has no known cure.
A former Predators associate coach and current team broadcaster, Brent Peterson went public with his diagnosis during the 2011-12 season, at which time he underwent Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery (DBS), leading to a dramatic reduction in his Parkinson’s symptoms.
“It’s fun to be here supporting someone like ‘Petey’ who we all love and care so much about,” Predators forward Matt Cullen said. “It’s always nice to come out here and do these golf tournaments, but when there’s somebody that’s close to you and means a lot to you - that you respect and look up to - it makes it a lot more personal.”
Cullen also became a fan of Lawlor on Monday.
An employee of Middle Tennessee Electric for 25 years, Lawlor’s fellow coworkers raised the funds for him to be able to participate after hearing him speak about the event around his office. On Monday, the 58-year-old felt like a kid again.
“I’m kind of in a daze a little bit,” Lawlor said with a smile. “I’m here and I see people from television programs and athletes just as friendly as can be. On the course I thought, ‘I don’t believe I’m standing here.’ I don’t want it to end.”
“It’s pretty cool that he can come out here and be a part of it,” Cullen said of Lawlor. “This is what it’s all about. To hear about somebody like that who’s going through it, we’re really thrilled to have him out here.”
A number of Preds, including the likes of Captain Shea Weber, goaltender Pekka Rinne and defenseman Seth Jones took part in the outing, showing support for Peterson and all those affected by the disease.
Jones, who said he shot “average” on the course, remarked on the overwhelming response to the tournament and the backing shown by all involved.
“It’s much bigger than yourself,” Jones said of the event. “Just the support that everyone’s giving to this, it’s amazing that they take the time out of their day and their busy schedules to come out here.”
Lawlor was humbled to just be in the presence of those who came out, let alone getting to play alongside so many who are fighting to find a cure.
“There’s people that actually care and want to help,” Lawlor said. “I don’t think the people here really take enough credit for what they do. They’re willing to spend [money] and I just can’t believe the generosity they have here, it’s just amazing.”
“It’s pretty impressive,” Cullen said of the turnout. “Obviously it’s something that resonates with a lot of people and it’s become a big part of the community. It’s fun and it’s for such a good cause.”
And while there’s no telling when a cure for Parkinson’s will be discovered, it’s certainly not for lack of trying. The efforts from Peterson Foundation for Parkinson’s and the Predators are helping to lead the charge on the issue, and those efforts aren’t going unnoticed.
“The [enthusiasm from] the Predators and Coach Peterson, you can’t beat it,” Lawlor said. “If it wasn’t for them and their popularity to do this, it wouldn’t be what it is today. [I just say] thank you. I can’t thank them enough.”