Grandson and grandfather make memorable final trip to the Rocket Mortgage Classic

Dennis and Paxton Niemiec
Posted at 2:39 PM, Jun 29, 2024

The Rocket Mortgage Classic is taking over Detroit Golf Club for the sixth straight year. Each tournament, it brings in thousands of golf fans, some as newcomers, some who make it an annual tradition. Two of those returners are Dennis Niemiec and his grandson Paxton.

Prior to the start of the 2024 tournament, 7 Sports Detroit reporter Jeanna Trotman received an email from Dennis, who reached out as a WXYZ viewer and fan of the tournament. Dennis retold the story of how he and his grandson Paxton met Jeanna back during the 2023 tournament and how he had a small favor to ask of her.

Recently, Dennis was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease called Pulmonary Fibrosis, due to asbestos exposure from working in a car factory decades ago. His health has declined drastically. He can no longer walk long distances without being out of breath or feeling weak. He was disappointed to know that Paxton couldn’t walk more of the course and see more holes or golfers taking part in the action. As a favor, he thought Jeanna could take Paxton around the course.

While walking the course together, Jeanna and Paxton talked a lot about sports. He’s only 13 years old, but when he gets older, he is contemplating a career in sports broadcasting or immunology. Sports comes from his grandfather’s influence, immunology comes from his mom, who is a nurse.

“Did your love for golf start from your grandpa?” Asked Trotman. Paxton answered quickly, “yeah” and explained how his grandpa taught him to golf on the course he lives on.

The more they walked, the more they talked, and the more Paxton told Jeanna about his relationship with his grandpa. Paxton explained this will be their last tournament together, due to the effort and strenuous activity it takes to attend.

“Just this past week, I played my last nine holes of golf, so I’ve had to give up the game that was my passion for 62 years,” explained Dennis. “Now I’m enjoying it vicariously.”

Vicariously through his 13-year-old grandson who he has helped raise. Jeanna asked Paxton just how close the two of them are.

“Really close,” explained Paxton. “During the summer I spend like 95% of my time at his house golfing with him.”

For some, the Rocket Mortgage Classic is purely a golf tournament. But not for Dennis and Paxton…

“This is the memories he will have forever,” said Dennis.

Nothing is guaranteed, not time in life, not a shot to fall in golf. Paxton and Dennis know that.

“How much more special are these moments to you?” Asked Jeanna.

Dennis began to cry.

“Knowing that this will be my last time doing something that takes this much effort… it’s difficult. But I am trying to enjoy the game, look at this, be around here with Paxton, it couldn’t be better. The end to a great run, let’s say.”

A great run, neither Paxton or Dennis take for granted.