Tour Players never know when that call from home will come

 

Last week Gary Woodland withdrew from the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play Championship.

The PGA Tour released only this: “Gary Woodland withdraws for personal issues.”

That often leaves fans and the media with thoughts of what it can be, or did he just have a bad round and withdraw.

Many times players do withdraw after a high score knowing they will not make the cut, so why hang around. Unfortunately the “personal issues” can be life and death emergencies and we don’t know the full story till later. Such is the case with Gary Woodland.

Woodland and his wife Gabby were expecting twins and during the tournament there were complications and they lost one of the twins.

Here is a public statement released by Woodland:

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Obviously no player could continue to play after such a tragic loss. As fans we forget that players have regular life’s off the course just like us. Children, family, friends, and all the time they devote to them. Being thousands of miles away from home and loved ones is a price you pay to be on the PGA Tour or any professional sport.

It affects not just the players, but caddies, PGA Tour officials, sponsors, coaches, and even the media. You know one day you may get that call that brings heartbreaking news, and you are hours away from home at best.

Billy Hurley went through a tragedy when his father was reported missing. To those of us outside his family it appeared to be a simple missing person case, but there was more to the story. His father was suffering from depression and had left home, and his state of Virginia.

Hurley could not continue to play under the fear of what may of happened or could happen to his father so he left the tour for an extended period to help his family find his father.

His father was located in a hotel in Texas days later and when questioned by authorities, he said he was fine, there of his own free will, and did not want any assistance. Legally the authorities could do nothing but notify the family where he was.

Days later he was found dead from an apparent suicide. Billy Hurley’s father died alone, despite all family and friends efforts to rescue him from the disease of depression.

Ryan Palmer got the news by phone in August of 2015. He father, Butch Palmer, 71 years old, had died in a traffic accident near his home in Texas. Ryan’s dad had introduced him to golf and was known in and around his hometown as the proud father of one of the best players on the PGA Tour. Butch was soft spoken according to friends, until you asked him about Ryan and then he would talk as long as anyone would listen.

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Now, Ryan Palmer is helping his wife battle cancer.

Palmer’s wife, Jennifer, was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer last July and had surgery six weeks later. Ryan left after the BMW Championship in September and didn’t play the PGA Tour again until the Sony Open.

“I spent the whole fall with my wife through chemo,” Palmer said. “That was my fall and winter break.”

Palmer’s wife underwent a chemotherapy regimen through the fall and winter and is undergoing radiation treatments now.

Palmer, 40, is back out on Tour now because Jennifer’s responding so well to the treatments.

When she was first diagnosed Palmer recalls,“There’s no way I could play golf,” Palmer said. “Enjoyed time at home, took care of the kids, but it was a lot of hard times, for sure.”

Jennifer tried to persuade her husband to play in the fall, but Palmer wouldn’t leave her and their two children, ages 10 and 7.

The Palmers have found comfort connecting with Stewart Cink and his wife, Lisa, who is also being treated for breast cancer. Palmer says there’s a different perspective when he is on Tour now.

“Makes golf less aggravating at times,” Palmer said. “You realize it’s just a game we’re playing, but it is what I do. I love to play the game of golf, but also there’s a lot of things going on.”

Just last week we saw an emotional Jason Day tell the media after playing three holes in the Dell Match Play that he couldn’t continue. “My Mother has been diagnosed with lung cancer, and they have given her a year to live. She told me to come here and play, but I just can’t. It is hard. I need to be with her.”

His mother had surgery last Friday and reports released say it was successful and there is reason for hope.

Still, we will most likely see a different Jason Day this year. As competitive as he and all the Tour players are, family comes first and golf is such a mental game, it is difficult to play competitively when there are problems at home.

In 2013 Hunter Mahan got a good call but at an unfortunate time. He was leading the Canadian Open after two rounds when he was on the range and got a note from his agent that his wife was ready to give birth.

Mahan, 31, left behind the probable victory and a $1 million check to fly home to be with his wife, Kandi, in Dallas. The couple’s first child, Zoe Olivia Mahan, was born at 3:26 a.m. Sunday, according to her proud father who witnessed the birth.

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Asked later if he ever had any doubt whether to go home, Mahan responded, “never.”

I cover the PGA Tour but I realize these examples of personal tragedy happen in all walks of life, not just golf, and not just sports.

Unfortunately the PGA Tour family has had more than it’s share of hard times recently.  But as Ryan Palmer so appropriately said,” You realize it’s just a game we are playing.”

Next time you read someone withdrew because of “personal issues”, say a prayer for them. Chances are they really need it.

 

 

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