I just wanted to start this article by thanking GolfWRX for allowing me to share my story of battling ulcerative colitis, and to the community of great members for taking the time to read it. It was a blast for me to write it, and I feel I am achieving one of my goals of raising awareness about the disease and just how difficult it can be on the people and their loved ones going through it.
To provide a bit more insight as to where I am now, I am feeling 100 percent. It was a long road to get there, mind you. After being told I would be in the hospital for three to five days, I was there for 14, home for two and then back to the hospital for another three.
I remember a lot about being in the hospital. The thing that I will take with me the most is the love and support of my family and friends. My loving wife (fiancée at the time) was the best. She would always be with me and just made me feel so good about it all, and always encouraged me to continue to get better and better. My brother came to visit me every single day; a 45-minute drive away and never missed a day. It meant the world to me to see him, and he made things easier for me. My mom and dad were there a lot too, and my friends all came to visit. It’s the people in your life that make the difference, and I think my team of people is the best!
I also remember my weight. Before getting so sick, I was about 170 pounds. A few days after my surgery I got on the scale and it said 123! I was in shock. I was so skinny it was scary. I am happy to say that I am now back to 165, and feel great about it.
As for my ostomy, I still have it. I am in a position to remove it and replace it with an internal “J-Pouch,” however I plan to keep my bag. For me, it has been easy to deal with, and I can easily handle it. I consider it my life-saver, and it truly has been. It allows me to golf, and live a very normal life, it is all good!
Now, as for golf, I was able to get in a very full 2012 season and it was a blast. I did a lot to prepare in the cold, wintery months here in Toronto and felt ready to go once 2012 started. My goal was to compete in about four or five events, but that changed when a big break came.
I saw the application online for The Golf Channel’s “Big Break” and I knew I had to apply. True, I was very rusty at the time, but I thought why not? What a story it would be right? I applied and kind of forgot about it, that is until the show got back to me asking me to come apply. The problem was the auditions were nowhere near me; Florida, North Carolina and Phoenix were the sites.
I am a die-hard Phoenix Coyotes fan, and it has been a dream of mine to go to Arizona. I really thought hard about it, and then my father-in-law offered to help out with the costs of the trip. He believed in me, and knew this was a great opportunity for me to live out two dreams: go to Phoenix and be on the Big Break. From there, I had to go for it, and I did! It was mid-March, and I was on my way, about to try to make it on the show.It was a dream come true just to be there, and a trip I won’t soon forget. I was very fortunate to be able to play TPC Scottsdale, as well as Troon North while out there, and both were incredible. Troon North truly blew me away. It was something else!
I remember very clearly my audition for the show. I arrived at the course very early, and figured I would warm up and hit some putts — really just soak the whole experience in. I remember hitting balls and watching the guy beside me. He was swinging so beautifully, so pure and it was something else to see. It reminded me a lot of my favorite player, Aaron Baddeley. Turns out that it was Ray Beaufils, who, of course, qualified for the show. When it was finally my turn to be interviewed, I was really nervous, but confident at the same time. I went over in my head a number of times the potential questions and of course what my answers were. I felt pretty good as the interview kept going. He then asked me about my surgery, and I could tell he had never heard of the disease. He seemed was very confused as I told him a little about the procedure and what happened. That threw me off a little, and I kind of froze over the last question or two.
When it was time to hit some balls, I did, but they were OK shots at best. My flaw of a little over-hooking shots showed up a bit, but it could have been worse. When I left the course, I was really kicking myself over the interview more than anything. I really wanted a chance to have a do over on the final few questions, and actually show him my ostomy bag. I knew he was clueless about it, I should have just showed him. I was down, but decided to not let it ruin my trip. Later that week I got to live out a dream of seeing the Coyotes at home, and it was amazing. Thinking back to that night — wow — so amazing! Of course, not totally like the atmosphere in Toronto or Montreal, but it was special nonetheless. And getting to meet Shane Doan and Mike Smith the day before at practice made it all the more special.
The only down side of the trip was the fact that I used up five of my vacation days at work, really limiting me in terms of days I could take for events. I knew that going in, but knew it was worth it! It was painful waiting to hear back from the show, and when I got the news I was not selected I was upset, but I totally understood. I think getting that “no” kept me motivated for 2012 to work hard on my game, and be more prepared for another shot if I decide to go for it.
As the season went on, it was just so great to be out playing. After missing so much time, the scores were a lot less important than the actual playing part. I started off playing respectably, but not up to my standards. I was hitting the ball well, but I was a bit shorter than I was used to, and was really struggling with my putter. That was until June, when I added a long putter. That putter served me well for the second half of the season, and I was able to shoot some pretty solid scores while in Florida in July. I was able to sneak in one event toward the end of the season, which was interesting to say the least.
I went up a few days before for a practice round and later found out that the Tour changed the event course! I really wish I had known that! So I arrived for the event going in cold, not ever seeing the course. But was just ready to have a good time and feel the nerves again of professional golf.
I vividly recall my warm-up session and just how good it was. I was flushing it, and honestly only missed one shot all warm-up. I was ready. Of course, what do I do on the first tee? Pull it left, lose the ball and make a six. It was weird; I honestly did not feel too nervous — I just really miss-aligned myself for fear of going right and over did it. As the round went on, I continued to struggle. I just kept telling myself have fun, and remember this is just a prep for 2013. I got a bit discouraged on the back after a few three-putts and left the course sour about how poor I played. But I was still excited to be back in professional golf, and looking forward to 2013.
Once again, thank you all so much for the read. It has been a lot of fun writing these entries and even more fun hearing all the well wishes from the community.