Sunday night dinners and summer vacations bring back the fondest of memories for Delaney Kern of her grandmother, Arleen. This summer, golf provides the nostalgia.
“My grandma made real good food and after Sunday night dinners with her, we played board games and hung out together. We also went to Hilton Head every summer,” said Kern
“I know if I could have dinner with anybody, I’d want it to be with her. It would be amazing to see her after five years. But golf is my way now of remembering her and honoring her.”
On Sept. 11, 2017, Arleen Delaney lost her battle with progressive bulbar palsy ALS. The disease causes paralysis of a person’s head, face and neck before spreading throughout the entire body. It also causes outbursts of laughing and crying.
Currently, there is no cure for the disease.
“It’s a horrible disease and I know my parents went through a difficult time,” said the 17-year-old daughter of Tammy and Patrick Kern. “It was hard to watch.”
Kern hopes to help alleviate those struggles for others by doing her part to find a cure for the illness as she raises money through a program she established called Birdies for ALS. She is asking sponsors to pledge a dollar amount for each birdie — or better — during her summer tournament season.
So far after 10 events she has scored 11 birdies and raised more than $10,000. Her next scheduled tournament is the PA Women’s Amateur from Aug. 2-4 at Sunnybrook Country Club in Montgomery County.
Kern updates her donors on Twitter — @birdiesforals. Those wishing to make contributions can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I am very thankful for all the support I have received and how eager everybody has been to donate,” Kern said.
“My grandma inspired me because she had it but this is an awful disease for anyone to suffer through,” she added. “I know she would be very proud of me.”
Arleen Kern spent plenty of time watching her grandchildren at the driving range or miniature golf facilities at the beach.
“She would come and watch my brother (Brendan) and I play. When I was younger, I wasn’t a very good golfer,” Kern said.
Today, she is one of the top competitors in the WPIAL and best juniors on the country club circuit. She competes for Valley Brook Country Club against other top clubs in the Pittsburgh region.
Last fall, Kern finished eighth in the WPIAL. She carded a 91 with four others on the storied course at Oakmont Country Club. Kern also helped Peters Township win a WPIAL team championship in girls golf. The Indians finished second in the PIAA.
“Winning the WPIAL was amazing and it would be awesome if we were strong enough to repeat that this year,” Kern said. “Individually, I would like to do better and lower my scoring average.”
Kern averaged 40 per nine-hole competitions. As a senior, she anticipates being a leader as the Indians attempt to challenge for a state title.
“We have a lot of incoming freshmen. Hopefully, they have been given it their best effort this summer and we could come out strong this year,” she said. “I look to be a leader and will try to mentor the younger girls in course management. I want to let them know that they can talk to me.”
Kern could always talk to her grandmother, who watched her compete in lacrosse and soccer games as well as her swim meets, dance recitals and gymnastics exhibitions when she was younger.
“But she never got to see me grow as a golfer,” Kern said. “That was disappointing.”
Golf and grandma never disappointed Kern. She said she learned valuable lessons from both.
“My grandmother wanted us always to know we had our family to rely upon and to always live an honest life, full of integrity. Golf teaches that too,” Kern said.