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A PGA pro’s battle with ulcerative colitis

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It was April 2010, and things in my life were going great. I was engaged to my dream girl, and was getting started at a brand new job, working as an assistant golf professional at a private club in Markham, Ontario. Not only that, but I was working with a great friend of mine, as well as one of the top head golf professionals in the province.

It was the perfect place for me to be at that point of my career. In my third year, I working under a great team at a great club. And on top of that, I had the opportunity to play a lot of local PGA events, which I was very excited about. Playing and competing at a high level is something I love and cherish, and I was pumped for the opportunity.

We were just getting things started at the club, setting up the pro shop and preparing for what was to be a great season. But things took a wicked turn for me in my own life. I found myself needing to go to the bathroom a lot more than normal, and experiencing quite a bit of stomach pain. I just sort of brushed it under the rug in the beginning, thinking it was nothing to worry about that it would go away on its own. Boy, was I wrong.

It continued to happen, increasing in frequency as well as in the urgency to go. When I had to go, I had to go NOW — no waiting around what so ever. The tipping point came when I began to notice blood in my stool. I knew this was something that was not going to go away on its own. I needed to get help.

I went to the doctor, and thus began a wild series of events that just never seemed to end. There were countless doctors and tests to try to determine what was wrong and why this was happening to me. In the beginning, I was told it was a bowel disease called “Ulcerative Proctitis.” They told me it was nothing major, and a series of medication were supposed to calm everything down and get things back to normal. I had been sick for about four months, so was excited to hear the news and happy to get my life back on track.

After taking the doctor’s advice and medication I was no better — maybe even a bit worse. I went back to the specialist and told him that there was no progress. Like me, he was concerned, and booked a colonoscopy. For anyone who has had this done, you know it is no fun at all, but at the same time it needed to be done so the doctors could see exactly what was going on. What the doctors found was worse than the original “scope” showed — more of my colon was affected, and my doctor was confident that I had “Ulcerative Colitis.”

For those who aren’t familiar with Ulcerative Colitis, it is an inflammatory bowel disease that unfortunately has no known cause, and only one cure; surgery. The symptoms are many, and include living in a bathroom (at the worst, I would have to go about 20 or more times a day). It also causes constant stomach pain, fatigue, weakness and other bad things.

Even though there was only the one cure, the doctor was nowhere near ready to make me go under the knife. He recommended a high-strength steroid (prednisone) that he thought would calm things down and ease the swelling of the colon, sending the disease into remission. There are thousands of people who have Crohns and Colitis and can live a normal life through medication and treatment, and we were hoping I would be one of them — David Garrard, a former Jacksonville Jags QB is a well-known athlete who has Crohns.

Of course, this made things at the golf club a lot tougher. I was in so much pain and in the bathroom so often. It affected my performance in the shop and on the course. I tried my best while there, but it was not easy. I played when the pain was not as high, but my game suffered. I was only able to play in two events all year, and they were both poor outings — a missed cut in the Ontario PGA Championship and a tough day two in our Assistants summer Championship that had me at the back of the pack.

Playing two consecutive days of tournament golf with this disease was tough, and the fatigue and pain caught up to me in the end. I knew that that was probably going to be it for me for tournaments for 2010, and that was tough to deal with. I knew I was just not healthy enough to play and compete at that level. I just wanted to put all of my energy to getting better and beating the disease. I ended up leaving the club just before the end of the season, as the pain and stress of it all was just too much for my body to handle.

It was now October, and all of these pills and medications were not doing anything for me. I felt I was getting worse and no progress was being made. I went back to the doctor and he knew at this point that the prednisone was not the answer. What I needed was a new drug treatment called Remicade. This was a new treatment for UC patients, but it had offered great results for some. The problem with this treatment is that you have to be approved through the government for it, and you have to get an insurance company to support you, as this treatment costs over $4000 per dose (it is an IV style treatment that goes directly into the blood stream.)

After a long wait and a number of phone calls, emails and paperwork, I was finally approved for the treatment. I had three appointments booked, and they had told me that this should get things into remission. Well, three treatments and more than $12,000 later, I was still not any better, and I knew the surgery was the next step. I was now a year into it and so sick and tired of being so sick and tired. I could not wait to have the surgery and be 100 percent cured of this disease. The main setback with this was the fact that I would have a colostomy bag on the outside of my stomach. It would be a major thing to get used to, but I knew I could do it. I felt it would be a piece of cake!

It was now August 2011 and almost one year since I had last played a round of golf. I remember being in the waiting room waiting to be called into the OR, and I kept thinking of all the things I was going to do when I was better. Golf was high on that list. Getting out to play and compete again was a high priority, and one I could not wait for! It took a while before that first round, but it was all worth it!  I remember playing late in 2011, just one round. I was playing with my wife and in-laws at a course I knew well, and standing on that first tee was very special. After all that I had been through, all the hard times and struggles, I was back! I shot a high number that day, but the thrill of being back on the links was so special, and a round I will never forget.

I really appreciate GolfWRX allowing me the opportunity to share my story with the community here. I have left this off with a lot more to add to my story and I hope you enjoyed the read. For anyone looking for more information on the disease, I urge you to check out the websites below, and feel free to PM with any questions you may have in regards to the disease.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

http://www.ccfa.org/  and  http://www.ccfc.ca/

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I am a very proud member of the PGA of Canada, and love all aspects of this great game. I had ulcerative colitis in 2010 and 2011, and had my colon removed in August of 2011. It was the best decision of my life. I am currently working hard on my game and career, and I love the opportunity to share my story with the GolfWRX community

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. paul k.

    Jan 18, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    good luck w everything rob…i had ulcerative colitis for about 6 yrs..and endless trips to the bathroom and feeling tired..it felt like i was prescribed every possible drug on the market, and nothing helped. at one point i shriveled down to 117 lbs.(im 6’3)..i got emergency surgery on christmas eve to have my colon removed,,and it was the best thing ever. surgery seems like the only solution. good luk everyone with the disease, and good luck with your golf rob. ill be checking on how youre doing

  2. Tom

    Jan 3, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Rob,
    Thanks for sharing your story- I hope everything is going well for you and your family. As a young man with UC also, I know it can be tough, especially with an active lifestyle. Take it easy and good luck with the gophers.

    Tom

  3. Robin

    Jan 3, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    This is a very inspirational story. I have Crohns myself (diagnosed Nov 2009) and went 11 months with no diagnosis, being told I had a “persistent stomach flu” and IBS. Finally a month long bout of kidney stones kicked off my long trek to remission. I am so glad to hear you are on the mend, sorry it took surgery to get you there, and wish you the best and many happy rounds on the course 🙂

  4. naflack

    Jan 3, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    I lost my colon from UC in 2010 after battling it for 6 years. I am now disease free but will tell you first hand life without a functioning large intestine is quite challenging. Your strength and energy levels never return, sleeping through the night it’s no longer an option and you will battle significant dehydration for the rest of your life.
    If you know anyone with crohns or UC understand that they in essence live their daily lives with symptoms you would associate with a stomach virus, everyday.

  5. Tom Earls

    Jan 3, 2013 at 10:47 am

    bob,
    Thank you for your story. I had Ulcerative Colitis for about 40 years, from the age of 24 to 66. I got some relief at about age 47 when I began taking a lot of Pepto Bismol which kills bactera. I finally achieved nearly 100% relief when I began taking colostrum 3 years ago. It is an auto immune enhancer from the first milk of a cow that has just given birth. I can only say it absolutely worked for me. I now get minor symptoms when I eat spagetti three days in a row, but I’m cured. Best of luck with you golf. Can you tell me how to cure my golf game?
    Tom Earls
    Sturbridge, MA

  6. Erica K

    Jan 2, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    What an inspiring story! Keep doing what you’re doing and I know we’ll be seeing the name “Rob Kenny” on the leaderboard in the very near future.

  7. Chris

    Dec 31, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    This is a good article about UC. As a sufferer for 20 years i can understand what you are going through, although mine appears much milder than yours. i have been on mesalazine for 19 years and 1 year on the prednisolone that saw my weight balloon. This is a good read and reminder of what happened to me a good few years back.

  8. DaverB

    Dec 30, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Great article Rob.
    With your dedication and tenacity, I look forward to seeing you playing in The Big Show in the very near future.

  9. Sam

    Dec 27, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    I definitely feel for you, Rob, as I have UC myself. I have a lighter case than many, and have managed mostly through diet (I was on sulfasalazine for years and that never really helped). I’m sorry you had to have surgery (I’ve considered it sometimes when I’m in bad flares), but it sounds like you’re taking it in stride and have great things ahead of you.

    -S

  10. Des

    Dec 27, 2012 at 11:40 am

    My daughter is a keen sportswoman and hard working 27yr old and manages her life around Chrohn’s. Your story is brave and candid and helpful to others with similar conditions. I wish you every sucess in your life and in your sport, you clearly have the strength of character to work through this tough period and I wish you every success and happiness in 2013. Des.

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Opinion & Analysis

“I Love You, Tiger!” At Big Cedar lodge, an outpouring of affection for Tiger Woods

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What a difference a year makes.

About one year ago, Tiger Woods was in Branson, Missouri at Big Cedar Lodge to announce that he was designing a golf course there; Payne’s Valley, his first public course. That day was attended by hundreds of national and local media, the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri and Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops owner and the visionary behind the amazing golf complex that has been established at Big Cedar Lodge.

That day, Woods had not played competitive golf for awhile, and he was recovering from multiple surgeries. Woods took a couple of ceremonial swings, the last of which clearly left him in physical distress. Days later, he was in surgery again and his playing career looked to be all but over. The situation became worse when Woods was arrested for driving under the influence, found with multiple substances in his system. It seemed as though the sad mug shots from that arrest might be as prominent in his legacy as the smiles and fist-pumps that accompanied his 79 wins and 14 major championships.

Fast forward to yesterday, where Woods was back in Missouri to do a Junior Clinic at Big Cedar. An estimated crowd of over 7,000 kids and parents showed up on a school day to catch a glimpse of Woods. The atmosphere was carnival-like, with sky divers, stunt planes making flyovers and rock music blaring from giant speakers. When Woods finally arrived, the reaction was electric. Mothers and their kids were chanting. “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” at the top of their lungs. Photographers battled soccer moms for position to get a picture of his swing. Some of the kids were as young as 6-years-old, which means that they had probably not seen Woods hit a meaningful shot in their life. At one point, when Woods was hitting shots and explaining how to execute them, a woman shouted, “I love you, Tiger!” Not to be out done, a woman on the other side of the crowd, who was their with her husband and kids, shouted “I love you more, Tiger!” Maybe the only people with more affection for Woods would be the people in the golf business. A senior marketing official in the golf industry leaned over at one point in the event and said, “God, we could use just one more from him.”

Woods swing looks completely rehabilitated. He was hitting shots of every shape and trajectory on-demand, and the driver was sending balls well past the end of the makeshift driving range set up for the event. But even more remarkable was the evidence of the recovery of his reputation. Surely there are still women out there that revile Woods for the revelations of infidelity, and no doubt there are those that still reject Woods for his legal and personal struggles. But none of them were in Missouri yesterday. Mothers and children shrieking his name confirmed what we already knew: Tiger Woods is the single most compelling person in American sports, and he belongs to golf.

Unlike a year ago, Woods is swinging well, and seems as healthy and happy as he as ever been as a pro. Add to that the unprecedented outpouring of love from crowds that once produced a combination of awe and respect, but never love. Fowler, McIlroy, Spieth and the rest may get their share of wins and Tweets, but if the game is to really grow it will be on the broad, fragile back of Tiger Woods. It’s amazing to think what can happen in one short year.

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Opinion & Analysis

12 reasons serious golfers don’t realize their potential

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What stops serious golfers from realizing their potential? If you are an amateur who wants to get better, a young player trying to achieve more, or a young professional with big dreams, this article is for you.

I’ve made a career out of helping athletes maximize their abilities, golfers in particular. And the things I see young playing professionals doing prior to our work together is often what is holding them back. The reality is that most young players, no matter what their level, have three key problems:

  1. They’re distracted by what’s not important
  2. They have no detailed structure and plan to reach the targets they determine are important to them
  3. They have no formal process to develop mindset and attitude

In the list below, I share what I see working with these young players and some common blind spots.

1. No real plan and steps to achieve targets

Most players do not know how to create a long-term and short-term plan that outlines all steps needed to reach targets. Players should have yearly plans with targets, steps and actions and weekly plans to organize/schedule their time and prioritize key needs.

2. Not focused enough on the object of the game

This goes hand in hand with No. 1. Surprisingly, players seem to forget that the object of the game is get the ball in the hole in the least amount of strokes. Trophies and checks are not issued for the best swing, the best putting stroke or most balls hit.

3. Not enough pressure in practice

Most young players have loose practice. The intensity of feelings between the practice tee and the course are too different. Focus and intensity must be a part of all practice. Add competition and outcomes to sessions so some urgency is created.

4. Too much practice time on full swing

The data is clear — most shots in golf happen from 100 yards and in from the green. If the majority of practice time is not spent on these shorter shots, practice time is wasted.

5. An obsession with the look of the swing

Players are not generally prepared to own their own swings and embrace the differences that make them unique. Obsessing over swing mechanics is a major distraction for many players. Many players convince themselves that if it doesn’t look “good” on their iPhone, their swing won’t get results.

6. No structure with the driver

Since scoring is the main goal, a consistent, reliable shape to each shot is important. My experience has been that if players are trying to go both ways with the driver, that is a sure-fire way to elevate numbers on the card. Pick a shape and eliminate one side of the course. Predictability from the tee increases a player’s confidence to put the ball in the fairway more often, creating more opportunities to score.

7. Expectation that they will hit the ball well everyday

Many players have the unreasonable expectation that they will hit lots of fairways and greens every time they play. This expectation leads to constant disappointment in their game. Knowing that the leading professionals in the game average about 60.6 percent driving accuracy and 11.8 greens in regulation per round should be a good benchmark for the expectations of all players.

8. Trying to be too robotic and precise in putting

Some players get so caught up in the mechanics of putting that their approach becomes too robotic. They become obsessed with precision and being perfect. Feel, flow and instinct have to be a central part of putting. This can get lost in an overly robotic mindset trying to be too precise and perfect.

9. No process for assessment and reflection

Players do not have a formal process for assessing practice or rounds and reflecting on the experience. The right lessons are not consistently taken away to ensure step-by-step improvement. Knowing how to assess practice, play and ask the right questions is key to development.

10. Getting in their own way

The voice inside of most young players’ heads is not helpful for their performance. It’s often a negative, demanding voice that insists on perfection. This voice leads to hesitation, frustration and anger. The voice must be shaped (with practice) into the right “emotional caddie” to support efforts and promote excellence over perfection.

11. A focus on the negative before the positive

A default to the mistakes/flaws in the round before looking at the highlights and what worked. When asked about their round, most players highlight three-putts, penalty shots and any errors before anything else. Emphasis should always be on what went well first. Refection on what needs improvement is second.

12. The blame game

Young players love excuses. Course conditions, weather, coaching and equipment are a few of the areas that are often targets, deflecting responsibility away from the player. Many players do not take full responsibility for their own game and/or careers.

I hope this provides some insights on roadblocks that could get in your way on the path to reaching your targets in the game. Whether it’s lowering your handicap, winning a junior tournament, working toward the PGA Tour — or just general improvement — considering these observations might help you shorten the road to get there.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Valero Texas Open

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With one of the weakest fields of the year, TPC San Antonio hosts the Valero Texas Open this week. Only one player from the top-20 in the Official World Golf Rankings will tee it up here. That man is Sergio Garcia, who co-designed this course with Greg Norman.

Just like last week at the RBC Heritage, the wind can wreak havoc at TPC San Antonio. The course features an exposed layout, making the level of wind is often unpredictable. Expect it to be a factor yet again this year. Unlike last week, the longer hitters do have an advantage on this course, which measuring more than 7,400 yards with little rough off the tee.

Last year, Kevin Chappell held off a charging Brooks Koepka to post 12-under par and win his first title on the PGA Tour.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Sergio Garcia 14/1
  • Matt Kuchar 18/1
  • Charley Hoffman 18/1
  • Luke List 25/1
  • Ryan Moore 28/1
  • Kevin Chappell 28/1
  • Adam Scott 30/1

From the top of the market, it’s hard not to love Luke List (25/1, DK Price $10,000) this week. The big-hitting American is still looking for his first win on the PGA Tour, but he is knocking on the door relentlessly. In his last eight events, List has finished no worse than T-26.

He was so close once again last week, and he should take plenty of confidence from that performance onto a course that theoretically should suit him much better. On this long track, List will have a significant advantage as one of the longest hitters on Tour. Over his last 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 1st in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green. List is also flushing his irons. He was second in the field last week for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, and over his previous 24 rounds he sits 3rd in the same category.

It’s not only his long game that is highly proficient right now, either. List’s short game has been stellar over this impressive stretch, too. He ranks 8th for Strokes Gained-Around the Green and 28th for Strokes Gained-Short Game over his last 24 rounds.

The one department holding the big man back is his putting, where he ranks 145th for the season. The rest of his game is so sharp at the moment that he’s in the enviable position of not needing that hot a week with the flat-stick to win. He only needs an average week on the greens to finally break through and claim his first PGA Tour event. There’s nothing to suggest List isn’t going to play well once more this week, and at 25/1 he seems undervalued.

Returning to a track that he adores, Brendan Steele (33/1, DK Price $8,900) is always a danger at this event. As well as winning the title here in 2011, Steele has finished in the top-20 three times since then. Whatever it is about TPC San Antonio, it’s a course that brings out the best in Steele’s game.

It’s been an excellent season for the West Coast native, too. He won his opening event of the season at the Safeway Open and has since finished in the top-30 six times. One of the main reasons for his strong run of form has been his work with the driver. Steele is ranked 1st in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee over his last 24 rounds, and he has only failed to post a positive Strokes Gained statistic in this category once since this event last year.

Recently, Steele’s game is showing trends that he may once more be close to hitting the form that saw him win at the back end of last year. In his previous 24 rounds, the Californian is ranked 10th in Ball Striking and 7th in Strokes Gained-Total. Always a threat at this event, Steele is coming into this week with all parts of his game in sync. He should be a live threat once more in San Antonio.

Another man who has played well all year is Xander Schauffele (35/1, DK Price $8,800). The Californian has made seven of eight cuts this year, and he has finished in the top-25 in four of those occasions. Excellent off the tee, TPC San Antonio should suit the 24-year-old this week, too. Schaufelle ranks 7th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 17th in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green over his last 24 rounds.

With wind likely to play a factor this week, pure ball striking will be necessary. That shouldn’t be an issue for Xander, who sits 7th in Strokes Gained-Ball Striking over his last 24 rounds. There is nothing off about Schauffele’s game right now. He ranks 21st in Strokes Gained-Putting over his previous 12 rounds and 5th in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green over the same period. It’s only a matter of time before the two-time PGA Tour winner puts himself in the thick of contention again, and there’s no reason why it can’t be this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Luke List 25/1, DK Price $10,000
  • Brendan Steele 33/1, DK Price $8,900
  • Xander Schauffele 35/1, DK Price $8,800
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