Brad Elder and Marisa Baena, the 1997 men's and women's college players of the year, have always wanted to be professional golfers. However, after recently coming down with mysterious ailments, both players face uncertain futures.
Early in the fall, Elder learned that he has Kienbock's disease, a rare vascular condition that has impeded the flow of blood to his right wrist. If the wrist goes untreated, the Texas senior, who was runner-up in the NCAA championships in June and was 4-0 in last August's Walker Cup, could lose the use of his hand. "There's some blood getting to it, so it's not completely dying, and there's hope," Elder says. "But the doctors have told me they've never seen the disease this early [in a patient's life]."
The 22-year-old Elder has sought opinions from doctors in Alabama, California, Georgia and Texas since Sept. 15, when the pain got so bad that he quit midway through a practice round at Texas. His doctors, though, have been unable to reach a consensus on how to treat the condition. Elder hopes to avoid surgery because it might decrease the mobility in his hand, and there's no guarantee it would provide a cure. For now he wears a cast that extends from his hand to just below his elbow and has electrical stimulation therapy for at least 12 hours a day.
After finishing 28th at the Mercedes-Benz Women's Championship in Knoxville, Tenn., in late September, Baena, the Arizona junior who was also the '96 college player of the year, complained of severe pain in her left shoulder. Doctors, however, have been unable to pinpoint why she is experiencing so much discomfort. Baena, who hasn't hit a golf ball in seven weeks, will sit out at least the rest of the fall. "If you want to have a long career," says Arizona coach Rick LaRose, "you have to take care of these things when they happen and make sure you're well for the long haul."
The Shag Bag
Already buoyed by the news that Colin Montgomerie would not play full time in the U.S. in 1998, the European tour received another boost when 24-year-old Lee Westwood of England, considered the best young player in Europe, said that he too would not try to join the U.S. Tour. "I'm as excited about the future now as I was in the late '70s and early '80s, when Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and the rest were emerging," European tour executive director Ken Schofield told London's Daily Record....
Lee Trevino, who tied for fourth at the Senior Tour Championship, credited his performance, in part, to a new putter that his caddie, Ralph Hackett, found in a golf shop in Napa, Calif. Knowing that Trevino collected the old Taylor Made line of TPA putters, Hackett bought a XVIII model for $30. Trevino put it to good use in Myrtle Beach, needing only 22 putts in the third round. "The guy wanted $50 for the putter, but [Hackett] gave him a ball I'd autographed and got $20 off," Trevino said. "Man, I wish I could sell every ball for $20. I'd sit up all night signing 'em."...
Charles Coody, who won the MasterCard Champions portion of the Senior Tour Championship, was mistaken for Miller Barber by an autograph seeker. Said Coody, "I know I'm ugly, son, but not that ugly."