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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

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

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There is a sense that this is the week where the 2018 PGA Tour season truly gets underway. An iconic golf course playing host to a world class field, which includes none other than Tiger Woods. Last year, Jon Rahm won the event in sparkling fashion, draining a monster eagle putt on the 18th green to take the title by three strokes at 13-under par.

With a top field usually on show here, it’s no surprise that the role of honor list is so impressive. Besides Tiger Woods having won the event a remarkable seven times, the likes of Snedeker (twice), Jason Day and Bubba Watson have all won here in recent years — the only surprise victor in the past seven editions being Scott Stallings in 2014. With this being his first event of 2018, Tiger will grab the headlines no matter what happens, and I think every golf fan will be fascinated to see how the 14-time major winner will perform on a course he dearly loves.

The event is played over two courses on the opening two days, Torrey Pines (South) and Torrey Pines (North) before switching to the South Course for the final two days. The South Course is a real test, measuring more than 7,500 yards and usually with thick rough. The shorter North Course offers up the best opportunity for scoring, which adds pressure to each player’s solo trip here during the week. There is even a difference on the greens, as the South Course uses Poa Annua while the North Course has Bentgrass.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Jon Rahm 8/1
  • Rickie Fowler 12/1
  • Hideki Matsuyama 14/1
  • Justin Rose 16/1
  • Jason Day 18/1
  • Tiger Woods 22/1
  • Marc Leishman 22/1

On such a long golf course such as the South Course here at Torrey Pines, there is no doubt that length off the tee is important. But the ability to find the fairway is equally so. It was a surprise that up until last year Justin Rose (16/1, DK Price $10,600 ) had never displayed his best golf at Torrey Pines, but a T4 in 2017 shows that at long last he may have finally figured out the course.

The usually reliable Rose ranks sixth in this field for Strokes Gained Tee to Green over his last 24 rounds and third in Strokes Gained Total. With limited birdie opportunities available, certainly on the South Course, I expect Par-5 scoring to be crucial this week… and Justin is a player with the ability to eat up Par 5’s. He sits fourth in Strokes Gained on Par 5’s in this field over his last 24 rounds. Performance on Par 4’s in the range of 450-500 yards should also prove vital with both courses containing five holes each in this range. Rose is 15th in Efficiency on holes of this length and sixth in Strokes Gained on all par 4’s in his last 24 rounds.

Rose made an important birdie on his final hole last Friday to make the cut in Abu-Dhabi, and in doing so seemed to shake off some of the rust in his game over the weekend. The current Olympic Champion shot bogey-free rounds of 67 and 69 over the weekend, giving him good momentum for this week. Rose finished ninth in Driving Distance last week and 10th in Driving Accuracy. If he can replicate that sort of form with the driver, then he should be able to give himself an excellent chance come Sunday afternoon.

The Farmers Insurance Open is an event which Tony Finau (35/1, DK Price $8,700 ) seemingly loves. In three appearances, he’s improved each time with finishes of  T24, T18 and most recently T4. His reliable Tee to Green game is a key factor behind his joy at Torrey Pines. Finau ranks 11th in this field in Strokes Gained Tee to Green over his last 24 rounds and ninth in Strokes Gained Approach. On the important 450-500 yard Par-4 range, he sits 13th in Efficiency over the same period. The long hitter also excels on the Par 5’s. In his last 24 rounds, he ranks third in this field for Strokes Gained on Par 5’s. As usual with Finau, the question mark surrounds his putting. But he seems to be a little more comfortable on the greens at Torrey Pines, where he has gained strokes over the field on the greens in all three previous visits here.

If you’re looking for reliability in your DraftKings lineups this week, then it’s hard to look past Charles Howell III (45/1, DK Price $8,300 ). In his last five trips to Torrey Pines, the Augusta native has finishes of T9-T37-T5-T16-T2 with a career Strokes Gained Total of +39 here. DraftKings players using Charles this week will also be glad to know that he has never missed the cut at this event in 15 visits. He scores very well on the key statistics for the week, suggesting another high finish may be in the offing.

Howell III is fourth in this field over his last 24 rounds on Par 4’s between 450-500 yards, while he’s 19th in Strokes Gained on Par 5’s in this same period. He is also trending upward in 2018, finishing T32 at the Sony Open and T20 at CareerBuilder last week. It would hardly be a shock to see Charles post his best finish of 2018 at a site he loves, and if he is ever to win again it would probably be less surprising to see him do it at Torrey Pines than anywhere else.

In terms of value down the board, J.J. Spaun (90/1, DK Price $7,500) jumped out right away at being a little undervalued this week. It seems like Torrey Pines is a good fit for the California native. Last year he finished an impressive T9 on his debut. It also seems like Spaun is hitting the ball better than ever at the moment. Over his last 24 rounds, he ranks ninth in Strokes Gained Tee to Green, seventh in Ball Striking, fourth in Approaching the Green and seventh in Strokes Gained Total — excellent statistics that he will be eager to see manifest into positive results soon. Spaun is sixth in Par 4’s ranging between 450-500 yards over his last 24 rounds and is also very competent on Par 5’s, where he sits 21st over the same period. At a price of $7,500there seems to be good value in adding Spaun to your DraftKings line up this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Justin Rose 16/1, DK Price $10,600
  • Tony Finau 35/1, DK Price $8,700
  • Charles Howell III 45/1, DK Price $8,300
  • J.J. Spaun 90/1, DK Price $7,500
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Opinion & Analysis

More Distance Off the Tee (Part 1 of 3): Upper Body Training

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If you read my previous story, Tour Pro’s Revealed: 3 Tests to See How You Stack Up, you are well aware of the fact that improving your upper body power is one of three sure ways to increase your distance off the tee. If you have not, I strongly suggest you check it out to gain some context about what is to follow and what is critical for your golf game.

Through our testing and the testing done of many of the industry leaders in golf performance, we have found that the ability of golfers to generate “push power” from their upper body is critical to maximize efficiency and speed in the swing. The way that you can test your power is simple. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Keeping your back on the chair, chest pass with both hands a 6-pound medicine ball as far as you can. When you compare this to your vertical jump as described in More Distance Off the Tee (Part 2 of 3): Lower Body Training Plan, the number in feet you threw the ball should be relatively close to your jump in inches.

If you threw the ball and it went 5 feet, you have an upper body power problem. If you threw the ball 25 feet and jumped only 14 inches, your upper body is not the problem — you probably need to focus on your lower body. It’s not rocket science once you understand what you are looking for. What can be challenging is knowing how to improve your power once you identify a problem. That is where the rest of this article comes in. What I am going to outline below are three of the most common upper body power exercises that we use with our amateur, senior and professional golfers.

The key with any power training exercise is to make sure you are as rested as possible between sets so that you can be as explosive as possible for the repetitions. Try not to do more than 6 repetitions in a set to assure that each one is as fast and explosive as possible.

Med Ball Chest Pass on Wall

This is one of the most basic exercises there is for developing upper body push power. Make sure your feet are about shoulder-width apart and don’t be afraid to use your legs to help maximize the punishment you deliver to against the wall!

Med Ball Wall Ball

Watching the video, you may be scratching you head and wondering why this is in the upper body power article when clearly the athlete is using his legs. The reason is that in the golf swing, power starts with the legs.

Med Ball Sky Chest Throws

This one is simple. Laying on your back, all you need to do is push the ball up as high as you can, catch it on the way down and the explode it back up into the air as high as you can. If you incorporate this exercise into your routine even once a week, you will see huge gains in your ability to swing faster if this was a problem area for you.

That being said, power creation requires not only speed but also strength development. It is also important that you have a solid strength program to increase your ability to generate more force. While this is beyond the scope of this article, finding yourself a solid golf fitness expert will help you create your ideal program.

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GolfWRX Forum Member dpb5031 talks about the TaylorMade Twist Face Experience

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Forum member dpb5031 (aka Dewey) joins TG2 to talk about his Twist Face Experience at The Kingdom. Recently, him and 6 other GolfWRX Members went to TaylorMade HQ to get fit for new M3 and M4 drivers. Does Twist Face work? Dewey provides his answer.

Listen to the podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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