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I always thought that the clich� about playing golf one shot at a time was silly, but I don't anymore. With my future in the game so uncertain, I'm trying to savor every moment. I have a bad heart, which seems about the craziest thing in the world to me because I feel that my heart is so big and so full of love for my family and friends, and for the game I adore.
The problem is that I was born with only one instead of the normal two ventricles, the heart chambers that pump blood into the arteries. As a result a relatively small and often insufficient amount of oxygenated blood circulates through my body, and I get out of breath very quickly. I had two operations before I was two years old, which improved my heart function. The surgeries helped, but they weren't enough to allow me to play most sports. That's how I wound up on the driving range--there's no running in golf.
I was six when I took up the game and was smitten right away. I quickly got pretty good. When I was 10, I won the 12-and-under division of the California junior girls' championship, and soon I was among the best girls my age in the country. I began to dream about making it to the LPGA--I still do.
This spring I qualified to play in both the U.S. Girls' Junior and the U.S. Women's Amateur, which is taking place this week at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Ore. I was excited, but before I got to either event a problem arose: I started to become exhausted every time I teed it up. It got so bad, I began rushing my shots and didn't care how they turned out, which isn't like me. I'm usually very competitive.
My parents took me to the doctor, and the news was not very good. He told me he wanted to insert a tube in my heart to get a better idea of what might be wrong. I postponed this procedure until after the Amateur, but that still didn't mean I could play.
If I wanted to compete, I would need a cart and an oxygen tank, but in early July the USGA ruled that it would not allow such accommodations. We appealed, and a week later the USGA reversed itself, letting me play in both tournaments with the equipment I needed. It's not ideal, but hey, at least I'm playing. I made it to the match-play portion of the Girls' Junior on July 19, and my goal was to get at least that far this week.
Am I scared? Absolutely. Who wouldn't be? Both for my health and that I won't be able to play golf again. But I'm not thinking about that now. I'm thinking about the Amateur, and I'm taking it one shot at a time.