Bob Hammer, a 1986 Carlmont High School graduate and founder of the Have A Ball golf tournament, began his Monday at 3:30 a.m. as he prepared for the 10th Annual Have A Ball Golf Tournaments Presented by Amgen and Synaptics at Crow Canyon Country Club in San Ramon.
After hosting 600 golfers in two rounds of 150 each, Hammer won’t get home until well past the sun goes down. That doesn’t factor in the 13 months it takes to produce two tournaments — there will be a second Have A Ball tournament in September also at Crow Canyon C.C.
By the time it’s all said and done, Hammer, a two-time testicular cancer survivor, will have raised close to $300,000 between the two fundraisers this year, putting him at nearly $2 million he has raised for cancer research, among other things, in the 10 years of producing the tournaments.
“I’m at $1.9 million (raised since 2005). Really?” Hammer said. “It’s very rewarding. It’s very cool. It’s a bit of a journey.”
Hammer admits there are times when he wonders if it’s all worth the effort, but those times are fleeting. His Have A Ball fundraisers have made him among the largest private donors in the country in the fight against cancer and there are many organizations that depend on his yearly donations.
Have A Ball is a labor of love for Hammer, his family and the board of directors who help him run his organization. In addition to having raised nearly $2 million, he makes donations to 20 different cancer organizations, ranging from the Lance Armstrong Foundation to Camp Okizu, a summer camp for children fighting the disease. He has created and awarded eight oncology nursing grants is association with Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City and University of California-San Francisco, in the name of his oncologist Fred Marcus — who died of cancer in 2006.
A heartbreaking irony as far Hammer is concerned.
“The guy (Marcus) had treated something like 5,000 cancer patients and he died of cancer,” Hammer said. “I have hundreds of stories (like that). I hear some [stuff].”
While the numbers and money Hammer and his tournament have raised is staggering, those are not necessarily the numbers that keep Hammer going. These are the numbers that keep Hammer battling cancer:
Twenty-six — the rounds of chemotherapy Hammer received while twice going through treatment for testicular cancer.
Fifteen — the percentage he was given that he would survive.
Eleven — the age of his son Josh, who was born by natural means after Hammer opted against surgery that would have prevented him from having any more children naturally.
One — his sister, who called him last week to tell him she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
THOSE are staggering numbers.
“One thing I will always take from the Lance Armstrong Foundation — Livestrong is still a great organization — is a quote from the weekend I was there (in 2001). One of the board members spoke of the ‘Obligation of the Cured.’ I have not forgotten that,” Hammer said. “That’s a driving force, to help other people and I took that to heart.
“UCSF has a counseling program and I’ve been on the list of people to call for years. I’ve gotten the phone call at 2 in the morning — a guy who is scheduled to have surgery the next day and he’s freaking out. I talk him through it.”
What makes the Have A Ball tournament so great is not only is it a great time out, but people respond to it because of what it represents. Of the 300 golfers in attendance Monday, Hammer said he probably knows, personally, about 200 of them. But almost to a golfer, Hammer said, nearly everyone has a cancer story — whether it’s themselves, a family member or friends. Nearly everyone has been touched by this disease in one fashion or another.
“I get in a (golf) cart … and shake everyone’s hand. You talk to someone for 38 seconds and they have a story,” Hammer said. “The reality is, everybody has a story about cancer.”
Here’s one more number: 15,483,830 — that is the number of cancer survivors in the United States alone, according to the American Cancer Society. THAT is the number that keeps Hammer motivated to do all he can to increase that number.
And that’s what the Have A Ball tournaments are all about.
If you would like to be involved for the 2015 Have A Ball tournaments, go to www.haveaballgolf.com for more information.
Nathan Mollat can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 344-5200 ext. 117. He can also be followed on Twitter @CheckkThissOutt.