Three friends who all passed away from cancer, Avo Avedisian, Vic MacGruder and Rodger Gustafson, had strong ties to Twin Lakes golf course. A golf tournament raising money for cancer research in honor of these three men will take place Oct. 13 at Twin Lakes. JESSICA KELLER, the Mirror

Twin Lakes golf tournament celebrates the lives of three friends, benefits cancer treatment center

An upcoming golf tournament not only will raise money for cancer care, it also honors the lives and memories of three local golfers and friends who all succumbed to the disease within a year of each other.

Rodger Gustafson, Vic MacGruder and Avo Avedisian hit the links at Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club in Federal Way together for 35 years. Although the local residents frequently played among a larger group of avid golfers, the three initially bonded over their golf clubs and tees at Twin Lakes and later when each was diagnosed with cancer, Arla Gustafson, Rodger’s wife, said.

The Out Drive Cancer Golf Tournament, which will take place Oct. 13, is intended to pay homage to the three friends by bringing together their friends, families and supporters, proceeds from the tournament benefit the Seattle Center Care Alliance.

Arla Gustafson said it only made sense for the fundraiser to be a golf tournament at Twin Lakes.

“Because that was one of the most important places for them,” she said.

Gustafson said, not only were the three men close friends, their families became such, as well, with their children playing golf, as well, and taking swim lessons together, as well. Once a month, for the last three years of their lives, the husbands and wives had a standing dinner date the last Friday of every month.

MacGruder passed away in October of 2016 of throat cancer, while Avedisian died at the beginning of June this year of lung cancer. Gustafson said her husband died three days later of sarcoma, a cancer that begins in connective tissues that spreads quickly through the body. It is also the least known of all the cancers, not only by the public, but by doctors, as well.

“It’s devastating,” Gustafson said.

Following their deaths, the three families, including Gustafson’s son Gavin Cuddie, wanted to do something that would honor the men and recognize each of their fights against cancer, not to mention the suffering each went through for so long and hopefully benefit the cause of cancer research and treatment. Gustafson said it was especially important for Cuddie, who formed a tight bond with his step-father, in part because of their love of golf. The tournament, she said, does more. It is a celebration of friendship and dedication.

“These men were examples of what you could achieve in friendships,” Gustafson said. “They also showed by example how to live right to the end.”

The week before he died, Gustafson said, MacGruder had a football party with friends, while Avedisian also stayed active through his fight. Her own husband, Gustafson said, had to scale back on some of his other activities toward the end, but right before his death their combined families, including grandchildren, gathered at their house to celebrate the remaining days they had together.

“We got the opportunity to establish another type of family love, and it was because of him,” Gustafson said of her husband.

The chosen beneficiary of the golf tournament proceeds, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, was also a deliberate selection, not only because it offered treatment to each of the men at some stage of their fight, but because the staff there are committed to what they do and the families they serve, Gustafson said.

“Seattle Cancer Care Alliance gave us hope that there will be a cure,” she said.

Gustafson said, if everything goes well with registration and sponsorships, the tournament aims to raise about $18,000 this first year. She said in all likelihood it will become an annual event.

People, however, can contribute to the cause by donating money by going to secure.seattlecca.org/pages/out-drive-cancer or by visiting the Twin Lakes pro shop. Those making donations can contribute as much as they like and can choose what category they would like their money to benefit: the greatest need, cancer research or sarcoma.

Gustafson said, if she learned anything from the fights and the suffering of her husband and his two friends, it is that people too frequently get caught up in day-to-day problems that really matter little overall compared with the fragility of life.

“I think we have to celebrate more, and this [tournament] is our celebration,” she said.

Check-in for the event is at 11 a.m. with a shotgun start at noon. Cost is $100 per golfer. Hole sponsorships are available at $200 per sign. Registration to participate in the tournament is due Oct. 6 at the club’s pro shop, 3583 SW 320th St., Federal Way, or people can come out just to watch or donate to the cause. To learn more, contact Gavin Cuddie at 253-508-3508 or email cuddiegavin@gmail.com.

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