Jill Briles-Hinton thought it hurt to lose a sudden-death playoff—her fate at the 1994 Children's Medical Center Classic in Beavercreek, Ohio. Two years later she learned more about hurt when her baby son, Bert, began having epileptic seizures. Anticonvulsant drugs didn't help. "We went to hospitals in three states, but nothing seemed to help," says Briles-Hinton, whose son had to wear a helmet to keep from injuring himself.
Last winter Briles-Hinton and Bert were at Boston Children's Hospital when she offered another patient a grape. "He can't eat that," said the boy's mother, who explained that her son had epilepsy and was on a strict diet that controlled his seizures. Soon Briles-Hinton and her husband, Bob, a tour equipment rep, took Bert to the Pediatric Epilepsy Center at Johns Hopkins, in Baltimore, where director John Freeman told them about the ketogenic diet. "The diet mimics starvation. It makes the body burn fat almost exclusively, which somehow helps stop seizures," said Freeman. Epilepsy and diet have been linked since Biblical times when, according to the Gospels, Jesus cured a demon-possessed boy who was foaming at the mouth, then told the boy to practice prayer and fasting. At Johns Hopkins, prayer is left to parents, but food is tightly regulated. The children's diet (it doesn't work for adults) is 90% fat. Butter and whipped cream are staples, but bread is tantamount to poison. The program, which works wonders for 20% to 30% of the kids who try it, is so strict that suggested treats include ice chips and lettuce. "It's exhausting," says Briles-Hinton. "Bob and I have to police Bert all the time. We measure his special foods like a science experiment. I feel like I've aged 10 years since March." But to her delight, Bert has not had a seizure since March 29th. By his third birthday next summer, he may be able to go off the diet and all medication, maybe even eat a piece of candy.
When asked about golf, Briles-Hinton blinks as if she has forgotten how she makes a living. "I could give up golf in a heartbeat," she said last week before finishing 52nd at the Oldsmobile Classic. "I've been out here 12 years now. I have not reached my main goals, a million-dollar career [she has won $571,789] and winning an event, but I gave it a good shot. My goal is my little guy now."