For several years, Kristin Osler lost her drive for golf.
The Austin sales account manager — who played killer golf in college, prepped for the pro circuit and works for a golf equipment company — lost a lifelong advocate when her mother, Suzanne Sandlin Clarke, died of breast cancer in 2000.
"I associated so much of my golf career with my mom," Osler says. "It became difficult for me to find enjoyment in the game."
Amarillo-born Osler, 34, has since married, begun a family and risen higher in the TaylorMade-Adidas Golf Company. Yet it was only when she and friends founded Suzy's Soldiers, a cancer charity named after her mother, that the joy of the game returned.
Three years ago, the group's tourney and gala, which returns to Grey Rock Golf Club and Barton Creek Resort & Spa in August, raised $30,000 for Breast Cancer Resource Centers. The next year, $60,000. Then $100,000.
Osler hopes to top that total on Aug. 10. Although the golfing portion of the benefit is sold out, $100 tickets remain for the gala.
"That's all net," Osler says. "All of it goes to the centers."
Osler started playing early and continued through high school and college. At Colorado State University, she took courses that would allow her to follow her mother into the field of physical therapy. Her father, Rick Clarke, is a retired surgeon. She met her husband, Cameron Osler, also a competitive golfer, in college, during a journalism class. They have two children.
Growing up, the budding benefactor — trim, focused and upbeat — looked so much like her much philanthropic mother that she was called Little Suzy.
"She was very classy," Osler says. "She didn't say a lot. But when she did, people listened. Very smart and kind. She carried herself with such class."
Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994. Osler's sister Kim, who had just graduated from college moved home to help out. After a two-year remission, Clarke faced a recurrence of the cancer in 1998. At that point, another sister, Karrie, who had recently graduated from college, took over as caregiver. A stem cell transplant proved unsuccessful.
So Kristin, just out of college — like her sisters before her — returned to Amarillo to plan her wedding and to care for her mother.
"She kept holding on and holding on," Osler remembers. "She wasn't able to talk at this point. We'd tell her, ‘It's OK to let go.' But she kept pointing at me."
Clarke died three weeks before the anticipated wedding.
"She definitely left her stamp on her community," Osler says. "We are following in her footsteps by helping a local organization."
Four years later, the Oslers moved to Austin from California, where the former pro golf prospect started out as a master fitter of equipment in a research and development department. Now she handles her company's account with Austin-based Golfsmith. Along the way, Osler erased her Texas accent.
"I realized that as a blond woman with a Southern accent in a male world, people wouldn't take me seriously," she jokes. "It comes back after one glass of wine. My husband loves that."
Osler had long admired groups such as Breast Cancer Resource Centers and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, especially how they remind folks to get regular check-ups. So, a few years after her mother' death, Osler was walking in Komen's Race for the Cure with some friends.
"We really needed to start a group in memory of my mom," she says. "I looked around to see all this pink camo. So I came up with ‘Suzy's Soldiers.' "
How can all the proceeds from the grass-roots event go directly to the resource centers? Suzy's Soldiers is lucky enough to have pulled Britt and Kelly Peterson of Longhorn Health Solutions into its corner. The Austin-based supplier of medical equipment, services and pharmacy covers all the event's overhead.
Meanwhile, Osler hopes to get back into golfing as her children grow older. After all, her mother did not approve of quitting.
"I think she would love what we have accomplished," Osler says.
"She certainly taught me the importance of giving back to your community. It's been a huge source of healing for me. It has allowed me to enjoy the game of golf again, which ultimately is what I know she would want."
Contact Michael Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 445-3970