Not all the money in the golfing firmament is being aimed at the top professionals. In what has been an on-going project since 2017, Nick Edmund, a four-time cancer victim, has been walking thousands of miles – from one golf course to another – to increase support for cancer charities and to fly his “Global Golf4 Cancer” flag all around the world. His quadruple tangle with the condition may have cost him an eye and demanded a re-built scalp, but this lone warrior has no plans to stop raising awareness for his campaign just yet.
Edmund’s project had its origins in late 2012, a year before he had his first cancer attack. It was then that this golf-mad English barrister – he switched from the legal scene to become a golf writer and help set up and run Nick Faldo’s golf course design business – joined a group trek in Nepal which just happened to be in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support, a prominent UK charity.
He loved Nepal and was in awe of the Himalayas but, with so many of his companions on the trip having known cancer in their families, he was struck still more forcibly by how it affected his emotions. At the end of it, he donated £5000 to Macmillan while simultaneously starting to consider how he could generate more support for those fighting cancer from within the golfing community.
As he told GGP in 2017, he was still at the planning stage when something happened to focus his mind. The small lumps which suddenly appeared on his head and neck in 2014 turned out to be cancerous and required an immediate operation. His surgeon had knocked him back with the news that his chances of survival were 50-50, but to his family’s relief – Edmund has a wonderful wife and two sons – he came out on the right side of that 50-50.
While in recovery, he put two and two together and came up with the 4 at the centre of his Global Golf4 Cancer campaign logo which is emblazoned on the blue and white GG4C flags which fly on special occasions on No 4 holes throughout the world. (Someone, would you believe, has even gone so far as to take one to the top of Mont Blanc.)
Edmund has yet to try his hand at the new Wordle game which has just been bought over by The New York Times, but seemingly everything that came into his mind at that stage featured the word “four” … to mention just a few, there would be 4 million people suffering from cancer in the UK by 2030; there were 4 million people playing golf in the UK; golfers yelled “Fore!”
Simultaneously, he forged a plan for the first of four campaign-launching expeditions. His idea was to walk with golf clubs on his back between all the golf courses on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way coast, stopping off at each to play the fourth hole and hand over a flag. That stretch of golf-walking involved 1,200 miles, stretching as it did from Ballyliffin in Donegal to Old Head in County Cork.
A lesser man could not have borne the series of set-backs which interrupted his plans to grow his plan of action. First, he needed a new hip and then, no sooner had he embarked on a Scottish version of his Irish venture – this one from Turnberry to Dornoch via St Andrews – than he needed surgery for a second bout of cancer. When he came round from the nine-hour operation his specialist advised, “I’ve given you a new scalp, Mr Edmund.” His third and fourth treatments involved the loss of sight in his left eye in order to stop the cancer spreading to his brain.
Now cancer-free for two and a half years, Edmund earlier this year attended the PGA Show in Orlando, Florida, to whip up support for an American mission in which as many as 100 clubs in North America could be flying the flag between the 1st and 4th July.
Since the money raised at each venue often goes directly to whatever cancer charity is closest to that venue’s hearts, he does not attempt to hit on an overall figure. Though it is probably in the millions, he is more inclined to concentrate on raising further awareness for his campaign. For an end goal, at least on the financial side of things, he is waiting for the right time to link with fund-raising experts on every continent.
As for what is in it for him, it is the sheer joy of seeing the campaign develop as a catalyst for so much support. What happened in November of last year was a case in point as José María Olazábal joined him on his golf-walk along Spain’s legendary Camino de Santiago after the two had spoken in 2017 at the Olazábal-Rafa Nadal Invitational charity golf tournament in Pula, Mallorca. The GG4C flag flew during that event and Olazábal told Edmund that if he were ever to walk the Camino, he would meet him in San Sebastián, his home town.
Not only did Olazábal do as promised but he brought his parents with him to the flag-raising occasion at his home club, Real Golf Club de San Sebastián. The two-time Masters winner, who at one point had so dire a version of arthritis that he could scarcely get out of bed, then joined our hero as they walked 20 kilometres together along Spain’s spectacular northern coast.
The often hilly 300-kilometre journey was tough for Edmund but he made it to the end, and where better to finish a golfing pilgrimage than Pedreña, Seve Ballesteros’s home course. “Here,” said Edmund, “I had the privilege of raising our flag on behalf of cancer victims in the company of Seve’s older brother, Manuel, and his eldest son, Javier.”
To expand on “what is in it for him,” Edmund will tell you that fighting cancer – his own as well as cancer in general – has amounted to the happiest and most fulfilling time of his life.
Top: José María Olazábal joined Nick Edmund on his golf-walk along Spain’s legendary Camino de Santiago.