St. Johns County family to hold golf tournament in memory of son killed in drunk driving crash

Tournament aims to raise awareness about drinking and driving

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A St. Johns County couple whose son was killed in a drunk driving crash are working to make sure he is never forgotten. They’re hosting a golf tournament and sharing a strong message about the dangers of drinking and driving.

Cathleen and Winslow Wheeler say they still grieve their son, Jack, who died in 2019, every single day.

“He had a lot of goals for his life, and unfortunately, those goals were cut short,” said Winslow Wheeler said.

Jack Wheeler, an 18-year-old senior at Creekside High, was the victim of a drunk-driving crash on Bishop Estates Road.

“Jack was a passenger in a vehicle that was going 101 mph in a 30 mph zone. The driver had been drinking earlier. The roads were wet. It was dark; it was curvy,” Cathleen Wheeler said.

Cathleen and Winslow say the pain of losing their son will never go away.

“This is the kind of pain that can break families apart. It can rip marriages apart,” Cathleen said.

The couple hopes their story prevents others from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.

“Be careful when you drive. Don’t drink and drive. Wear your seat belt. Don’t be reckless when you’re driving. You don’t want to be that person that produces how our family feels. Because there’s no description as to what we go through every day,” Winslow said.

Through their pain, the Wheelers are hosting the Third Annual Jack Wheeler Memorial Golf Tournament on Saturday at the Golf Club at South Hampton.

One hundred golfers are expected to participate, with money raised going to St. Johns County students preparing for college or trade school.

“It’s hard because nobody wants to put together an event for their child that’s not here anymore,” Cathleen said. “So it’s draining and can be really rough. But the joy comes in the Spring when we get to go to visit the different schools and visit the kids who win the awards.”

Willy DiStefano, the director of golf at the club, is celebrating nine years of being sober from alcohol. He said hearing the Wheeler’s story made him think about his own past.

“It hit near and dear to my heart,” DiStefano said. “It was a big eye opener for me because what happened to their son, Jack, I actually could have been the individual that could have caused the death of their son with how my past was going.”

The Wheelers said Jack’s impact lives on.

“Don’t sweat the small stuff. Just appreciate everything that you have right in front of you. That’s the legacy that Jack leaves behind,” Cathleen said.

Since the golf tournament started three years ago, the Jack Wheeler Memorial Foundation has raised $18,000 in scholarships for St. Johns County students.

If you would like to donate, click here.

About the Author:

Amanda DeVoe joined the News4JAX team in March 2022 as a morning news and traffic anchor