By Chris' mom, Deb
4/1/93 - 6/19/16
My son, Chris Maloney was a truly passionate person, especially when it came to his family and friends and interests. If he couldn't be perfect at something then his attitude was "what's the point". He had an infectious smile, quick wit and quirky way of looking at the world.
Chris loved sports, history, and creating things, whether it be buildings for his super heroes or a beautiful painting. Hockey was his first passion until he started 8th grade when he decided it was time to try a sport where he didn't have to rely on someone else "showing up". He chose golf and that's where his story began to soar. Everyday Chris would walk a mile down the road with his clubs to the little county course where he used his lawn mowing money to get a junior membership. There he would team up with the retired golfers to play 18-45 holes a day. Chris not only loved listening to the old-timers stories, but wanted to share his from his 14 year old life.
The next summer he tried out for the St. Joe's golf team. His dad promised him a new set of irons should he make it. St. Joe's only had a varsity team of 12 golfers. We arrived at the course for tryouts to find over a hundred candidates. Each day he made the cut, running to the car with overwhelming excitement, until the last day. As he headed toward me with his head down, clubs over his shoulder I felt the pit in my stomach only a mother can know seeing their child fail. Then as he lifted his gaze toward me I could see from under the bill of his hat a twinkle in his eye and a crooked smirk that said, "GOTCHA!"
That next month while playing at his middle school Alumni Tournament he achieved the first of many golf triumphs. While at the 18th tee he called me at work. I picked up the phone and could hear cheering and shouting and in the most exuberant voice I hear, "Mom I just shot a hole in one!" Chris was 16 years old. The next year he joined our local country club where he became a celebrity in his own right with the members there. He came in 2nd at All Catholics, shot a record 66 during a summer tournament with the WNYPGA, played in the Jr. Masters in East Aurora, and made it to the State Championships twice. He was then accepted to St. John Fisher to play on their NCAA Division III Golf team.
In his final years he was accepted to Coastal Carolina University's Pro Golf Management Program in Conway, SC, one of only 9 programs in the country at the time. Within the first 2 months he passed the coveted PAT (Playing Ability Test) which is a 36 hole playing ability test mandatory in order to become a PGA professional.
Unfortunately after his second semester Chris relapsed. I went to visit him shortly after and he seemed to be doing better, attending meetings, working, etc. The last time I hugged him was on Mother’s day 2016. I dropped him off at his apartment before heading to the airport and as I was pulling away, he ran back to my car, reached thru the window and grabbed me so tight with his standard, “I love you mom.” A short 5 weeks later he overdosed and died on Father’s day.
While Chris' stay at CCU was brief he made an impact on friends he met and teachers who would not forget him. Upon his passing we received an official diploma of attendance and so many heartfelt words. These from his Political Science teacher sum Chris up beautifully, who only knew him for 1 semester:
Chris was one of my students at Coastal Carolina University. He was my number one
guy in a class of 36 students. He was always prepared for discussion and offered insightful comments. This young man was a superlative student with a gregarious personality. Others tried to emulate him. I LEARNED FROM HIM!!!
He was a fine man with a caring heart. I will miss him very much.
Chris' achievements live on with a foundation started in his memory, the Chris Maloney Legacy Foundation. This foundation is building community partnerships bridging the sport and core values of golf with those needed to raise healthy, happy, children and young adults. Chris wanted to be part of the First Tee Program so that's where it started and now connects with Kids Escaping Drugs. Our family and friends couldn't be more proud of Chris and revel at what he accomplished in his 23 years.
Here are some words from each of our board members in how Chris has impacted their life and continue to do so.
From Mark Kuligowski, our Director of Marketing, and one of Chris’ first hockey coach and life long friend:
"Christopher Maloney brought me back into coaching hockey, at the request of his parents. The enthusiasm that he had for the sport and the absorption that he maintained for it at such a young age returned my love for the sport its creativity, systems, and competitiveness. We don’t always know how well we’re explaining things when it comes to younger age brackets, as I was a coach at varsity levels prior. Chris questioned things innocently enough, challenged often, and loved the interaction – it was a mutual respect type of generator between the two of us, and it made me realize that even as an adult (with supposedly having all the answers) that communication of that educating moment might not have been received correctly. This not only helped me realize that gap as I continued coaching younger ages, but it also helped me with my own two daughters. I will forever be grateful for his fearlessness to ask and challenge, as it educated me as well."
From Bruce Armitage, our Vice President and Chris’ uncle:
"One of Chris’ most memorable qualities was his curiosity. He always wanted to understand how things worked or how people thought, even if his questions would be posed with a large dose of skepticism (e.g. “Why would anyone do that?”) His struggle with addiction motivated me to learn more about the problem and ultimately to create a course that I now teach each fall semester to both science and non-science majors. The students learn not only about the molecular basis of addiction and its treatment, but also the broader societal factors in play. At the end of the semester, I ask the students to write down the three most important things they learned in the course. By far, the most common response is “I learned to feel empathy for those in addiction.” Many of the students continue to send me articles and videos on the topic long after the course ended. I have a feeling that Chris’s experience will continue to impact not only those of us who knew him and loved him, but also these students who never got the chance to meet him."
And lastly, from Leibert Danielson, a board member and life long friend:
"I’ve played a lot of golf with a lot of people over the years and I was privileged to play many times with Chris during his adult years. It is not at all uncommon to see people roll their ball and improve their lie, or “give themselves” putts that are well outside gimme range, during a casual round when there is no game being played. Not Chris, at least not when he an I played together. He played the game the way it was meant to be played. I never once saw him roll the ball to improve his lie. It was the 10th hole at the Dye Club during one of our many rounds there when Chris penalized himself for touching the sand with his wedge while trying to keep his balance on a steep slope in the green side bunker. We weren’t playing a game. We were of course keeping score, but there was no game. And I never saw it happen. We got back to the cart and I wrote down a “4” for his score (he made the putt after a pretty good bunker shot) which is when he said, “No, I have to take 5.” Golf was good for Chris and, at least in my own observations, Chris displayed all of the stereotypical golf character when he played."
Our hope is that the stigma of addiction is reduced resulting in people seeking treatment sooner and participating in the life long recovery that can be achieved and maintained with the appropriate programs which address addiction and the impact of mental health issues that all too often lead to that addiction.