Murphy Memorial Golf Tournament: Taking a Swing at Cancer

As the Murphy Memorial Golf Tournament celebrates its 17th year, the Murphy family reflects on how it began and looks forward to a day when no one has to battle cancer anymore.

Our golf tournaments are like very big, very happy family reunions,” says Brooke (Murphy) Fitzgerald, “and so many people come back year after year. The fun and friendship have been going on now for 17 years. One person who has made it to every tournament is Gordon Baxter, who grew up in Vinton but now lives in Minneapolis.”

It’s difficult to believe such strong feelings of love, fun and friendship have bloomed from such a tragic start. For those not familiar with the founding story of the Murphy Memorial Golf Tournament, Rick Murphy’s words below will provide the details. If you haven’t participated in the past, you might want to this year, whether as a golfer or a donor. To request a team registration form or to consider sponsoring this year’s event, email Brooke at

In 1991 our mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had significant lymph node involvement, and the prognosis was not considered “good.” She was a fighter, and she eventually underwent a bone marrow transplant. Her fight for life ended with a doctor telling us there was nothing more to be done. Mom went quietly with Jill, Amy, and I at her side. It was 1992 and she was 53.

In 1998 our dad was diagnosed with colon cancer;  it was removed but the cancer had broken through the colon wall and had metastasized to two-thirds of his liver. No surgery could remove it, and a transplant was out of the question. That was March 7, 1998, the same day that my brother Tom called dad in the hospital to tell him of the birth of Dad’s sixth grandchild. On January 6,  1999 dad died.

Our sister Jill, always the brain of the family, decided to switch careers; she became a cancer researcher working with doctors at Mayo and helping with a joint U.S. and French clinical trial of an oncology drug. She decided that we needed something to remember our folks by, and that a charitable golf tournament would be the ticket. She organized the first Murphy Memorial Charity Golf Tournament for August of 2000 in Minneapolis. Plans were underway, and all of her friends in Minneapolis were gearing up for what would be a great day, and, hopefully, a nice check to be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

On March 7, 2000, my brother-in-law called to tell me Jill, now 37, had been diagnosed with the same kind of breast cancer our mother died of. The first tourney was held while Jill was as bald as a newborn baby and very sick from the chemotherapy. My brother, brother-in-law, and I shaved our heads in gesture of support. It was a tough day for all of us, but it was filled with many laughs and tears.

We raised over $7,000 and we were thrilled. At 9:00 on the morning of March 13, 2003, cancer took Jill, too. She was 40.

Over the last 17 years our family and friends have raised more than $300,000 for local hospice and charity care organizations. This is something we all believe is a very worthy cause and will continue to support. Our business partners say it is one of the most fun tournaments they play in every year and wouldn’t miss it. We hope to keep it going for as long as someone has cancer to battle, win or lose. We hope that one day we will defeat it together. And what a party that tournament day will be!

The Virginia Gay Hospital Health Care Foundation extends a sincere thank-you to the Murphy family, and their friends and loved ones, who have donated so generously to so many Virginia Gay campaigns and Gifts of Hope. The Foundation requested raffle gift contributions from a number of sports teams and so far has received two tickets to a U of I football game, two tickets to a UNI football game, two tickets to a St. Louis Cardinals game, four tickets to a K.C. Royals game, a signed color photo of a Minnesota Vikings player, a signed photo of a Cubs pitcher, and a football signed by all Green Bay Packers players and coaches on the 2015 team.

To learn more about participating in this great event, email Brooke at or click here view a 2016 Tournament brochure.