Turner's golf event assists children, veterans

Turner's golf event assists children, veterans

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- When Luke Lang was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia in 2013, the doctors explained to his parents the probabilities of survival for a young child battling such a disease.

His father, Richard Lang, wouldn't hear it.

"The first words out of my mouth were 'Don't give me percentages, it's 100 percent. There are no percentages,'" Richard Lang said. "I just said 'losing is not an option. It's not an option.' [The phrase] just started, and Luke is the true meaning of it."

It's that mantra that caught Dodgers' third baseman Justin Turner's attention several years ago, when Luke Lang entered his life.

The Langs, from Long Island, N.Y., had field passes to a game at Citi Field in 2013. Luke, who had just finished a round of chemotherapy, was handing out his bracelets with "Love for Luke, Losing is Not An Option" and gave one to Turner, who was then in his final season with the Mets.

"I thought it was amazing," Turner said Monday morning at Sherwood Country Club, where he hosted the Justin Turner Foundation's second annual golf classic. "Their energy, their outlook, their passion for life, their positivity, [it] just kind of hooked me in."

Turner immediately fetched a bat to sign for Luke, and the friendship blossomed from there. Luke threw out of the first pitch at Dodger Stadium on Turner's Bobblehead Night in 2015, and Turner makes a point of seeing him each time he's in New York, even surprising Luke at one of his Little League games last summer.

Pederson and Puig golf with dogs

"I say it with all my heart and soul that Justin and Luke are friends," Richard Lang said. "It's not Luke and Justin Turner, No. 10 for the Los Angeles Dodgers, it's Luke and Justin. And it's such an amazing friendship, and I wish people could see through my eyes what I see because how Justin is with my son, it gives me goosebumps. It's an amazing relationship."

Today, Luke, now 9, is in good health. He took his last chemotherapy pill on Sept. 20, and his latest monthly blood work came back "fantastic," his father said.

"We hold our breath every time he goes, but he's a fighter," Richard Lang said.

Turner's community engagement has since expanded to include his annual golf fundraiser, which drew a number of Turner's Dodgers teammates, including Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig, Scott Van Slyke, Joc Pederson and Scott Kazmir.

Luke teed off the ceremonial first drive, and following the tournament, the participants attended a dinner, where the Lang family was presented the first Justin Turner Foundation Perseverance Award.

Proceeds from the event will benefit children battling illnesses and diseases and the LA Dream Center's veterans program, which assists military veterans as they transition back to civilian life.

Last year's golf outing at Brookside Golf Club in Pasadena, Calif., raised $65,000 to help house homeless veterans, and this year's event was expected to raise even more with a bigger turnout and additional sponsors.

Turner hosts charity golf outing

"We support the guys on the team and the different events they put on," Pederson said. "They're maximizing their fame or attention or followers and using it toward a good cause, so I think that's a really good thing."

"I'm not so good at golf," said Puig, who is in the midst of establishing his own foundation. "I've come here to have fun and for Justin Turner. ... For the community and for the foundation, he wanted to make this event, and I wanted to be a part of it."

Turner said the community efforts by Dodgers players have been contagious throughout their clubhouse, developing a culture of giving back. Many of the players manage charitable organizations and often turn out in support of those run by their teammates and other big leaguers.

"We have a great group of guys who really enjoy supporting each other and being there for each other," Gonzalez said.

"They come out and support this for me, I go out and support their stuff, and it just keeps spreading throughout the team," Turner said. "Hopefully guys understand the impact they can have and the platform that we have to get out and do as much as we can."

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.