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Celebrate spirit of 'day after'

From a wicked day came the day after.

As the nation remembers the smoky images of broken buildings and the shattered sense of security that followed the attacks of 9/11, Johan Immelman and Rich Davies remember something else.

They're Charlotte residents, who landed here from South Africa, and remember the way it felt on Sept. 12 when all the lines disappeared and a circle was formed. Out of tragedy came compassion, camaraderie and a collective sense of unity that couldn't change what happened but did change how we looked at each other.

Ten years on, Immelman and Davies want to rekindle that feeling using golf.

"Those of us who grew up and lived somewhere else are so appreciative of the opportunity to live in this country," said Davies, chairman and co-founder of Golf 9/12. "The reason we chose to come and live here was never more evident than the day after 9/11.

"Everybody has their stories about what they saw in those days after. They were seeing the real American spirit coming out, the spirit that's under the surface every day."

Keeping that spirit alive is what led Davies and Immelman, father of former Masters champion Trevor Immelman, to create Golf 9/12 (golf912.org), a national initiative driven by kinship and wrapped around a day on the golf course. At approximately 30 courses across the nation -- from Maine to Georgia to California -- groups large and small have signed on to spend Monday on the golf course more to raise awareness than to raise money.

The hope is to eventually raise funds to help underwrite the various 9/11 memorials as well as help first-responder units in various communities, a nod to the sacrifice of the rescue workers in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pa.

This first year, though, it's more about feeling than finances, remembering the words of Nelson Mandela who said, "Sport has the power to change the world."

"We just want people to go out and play golf together, to remember and reflect and to be mindful of the fact that we're all on the same team," Davies said.

A large event is scheduled on Long Island, N.Y., another is set in Columbus, Ga., where Trevor and his brother Mark, will host a large group. In Charlotte, Davies plans to host a group of friends at Quail Hollow and interact with the other sites through a phone application that will tie together the various events.

It can be a foursome or it can be an outing. The point is to use golf as a way to remember what happened a decade ago and how it felt in the days after.

Endorsed by a number of PGA Tour players including Lucas Glover, Davis Love III, Zach Johnson and others and recognized by multiple national and international golf organizations, the goal is to grow Golf 9/12 into an event similar to the success Patriot Golf Day initiative, which raises money for families of wounded or killed servicemen. If Patriot Golf Day is, in effect, the first awareness and fund-raising major championship, organizers hope Golf 9/12 will be the second.

"The seeds have been planted in a large field and we're hopeful those seeds will bear fruit in the future," Davies said.

To remind golfers and everyone of how it felt the day after.

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