[Martin Fennelly wrote this for the Tampa Tribune, Nov 11, 2009 and it
brought tears to my eyes]
Every once in a while a teacher invites me to speak to their high school
class or college journalism course. You know, just talk about writing.
When it’s time for questions, the students ask about events like Super Bowls
or the World Series, or what’s it like to talk to the Bucs or Michael
Jordan. What a thrill it must be.
Super Bowls and Michael Jordan hardly ever come up.
Mallory always does.
I always tell school kids about Mallory. The day I was lucky enough to meet
her and write about her, well, it was about my favorite day in journalism.
Mallory Code passed away Monday night. She was only 25, but in those 25
years, she taught everyone who ever met her about life, love and courage.
It was a friend and former co-worker, Mick Elliott, who told me about
Mallory. It was 2001. Mick was the Tribune’s golf writer, and he told me I
should really write about this Mallory Code, a terrific junior golfer, one
of the best in the country, a 16-year-old prodigy from a family of golf
prodigies, who had been handed a death sentence at birth – cystic fibrosis –
and had never ever batted an eye.
“I think you’ll like her,” Mick said.
We spent part of an afternoon together at a local golf club, Mal and her
older sister Whitney, the inseparable ones, Mal and Whit.
Mallory was wearing a ratty golf cap, the same one she’d been wearing for
three years. She confided that her “ears were too high” for most caps, so
when she found this one, and it fit just right, she just kept on wearing it.
Whitney just smiled.
That was her sister.
That was Mal.
Mallory had cystic fibrosis, and she had diabetes, and she had asthma, and
she was always in and out of hospitals and emergency rooms.
She played through.
And kept smiling.
She was featured on HBO’s “Real Sports” and the “Today” show. She spoke
before thousands, raising awareness about cystic fibrosis, raising funds and
lifting hearts, because her spirit wouldn’t let her do anything less.
There was no doom, no gloom.
Mallory Code was the sun on your face.
Mal and Whit helped lead Chamberlain High School to titles. Their brother
Jordan was playing golf at the University of Florida. Whitney would, too.
Mallory followed them and would earn a degree in Gainesville. But Brian and
Karen Code’s youngest child taught everyone more than they ever taught her.
She taught me what I try to teach young writers – that the real heroes
aren’t always the ones at the top of the Sports pages.
Mallory Code was a true superstar.
“My life is perfect in most every way,” she told me eight years ago. “I’ve
got this awesome family, awesome friends and an awesome relationship with
the Lord Jesus. I’ve got golf, dance, everything. I don’t want to be the
little sick girl out there.”
She said she got scared sometimes, but she never counted days.
Mallory just lived them.
I didn’t stay in touch after I wrote about her, and I’ll always regret that.
But Mick would often tell me whether Mallory was up or down.
I think about Mallory a lot in my job. I think about her when I hear a
ballplayer is complaining about his contract or some fan is screaming about
his team getting a raw deal.
I think about the deal Mallory got, about how she made the most of it.
Whenever I see a young boy or girl fighting something awful, I think about
how many children must have met Mallory Code and felt Mallory’s light, how
many souls she touched. One afternoon with her was enough to last a
What’s it like to talk to Michael Jordan?
Once I got to talk to Mallory
Dr Bob Griffin
“Jesus Knows Me, This I Love!”