A Familiar Foe a Renewed Perspective for Mayfair

By Associated PressAugust 15, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 PGA ChampionshipMEDINAH, Ill -- The lump Billy Mayfair felt in the shower made him nervous enough to see a doctor.
Then came a call from the urologist while he was eating lunch with his girlfriend at the Buick Open, asking that Mayfair return immediately because something didn't look right. Only when he sat in his office and stared at the film did fear set in.
'It was at that point that I got scared, because it was definitely cancer,' Mayfair said.
The good news -- stunning news, the more Mayfair thought about it -- was getting out of his bed Tuesday morning and driving to Medinah Country Club for a practice round at the PGA Championship.
It was only 12 days ago that he had surgery to remove his right testicle, getting the cancer before it had spread. Five days ago was one of the best days of his life, when Dr. Gil Brito in Phoenix told him tests showed it was gone.
'Two weeks ago today, if you would have told me I was going to be here, I would have never believed it,' said Mayfair, who turned 40 on Aug. 6 -- three days after his operation.
Cancer has always been a word that made Mayfair shudder.
A day rarely goes by without him thinking of Heather Farr, the LPGA Tour player who was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 24 and died four years later in the prime of her life.
She was like a sister to Mayfair.
They grew up together in Phoenix, spending their afternoons on the Papago Golf Course, a public course where they pursued greatness. They shared the same coach, Arch Wadkins, and in 1992 at Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., they won the boys' and girls' division at the Junior PGA Championship.
Both turned sterling amateur records into a spot in the big leagues.
Farr's career ended far too soon.
'I remember the day I was in Hartford, Connecticut, when I called home and my instructor, Arch, told me that Heather was diagnosed with breast cancer,' Mayfair said. 'I didn't know much about it, but being around Heather and seeing what she went through and all that, I learned a lot more. It scares me, absolutely. And I miss her. I miss her terribly.'
Mayfair managed a smile when he recalled the time they met.
Not many girls played junior golf in the early 1970s, and it was not unusual for them to be lumped in with the boys. Mayfair was 8 when he played his first junior tournament, and he wound up in the same group with 9-year-old Heather.
'I was not happy having to play with a girl,' Mayfair said. 'I got so mad that I started walking ahead of her, and sure enough, she creamed me with a 3-wood.'
Of all the calls and cards of support he received over the last few weeks, nothing meant more to him than learning that Missy Farr Kaye was in the waiting room at the hospital the day of his surgery.
Missy, now an assistant golf coach at Arizona State, is the younger sister of Heather Farr. It was the death of her sister that taught her to get mammograms every year, which ultimately saved her life. Missy was diagnosed at age 30, but doctors caught it early enough that she has been free of cancer the last eight years.
Word that Mayfair was diagnosed with testicular cancer was a jolt.
'It is rather surreal, there's no doubt about it,' Farr Kaye said Tuesday from Arizona. 'I'm just so thankful the prognosis is excellent. Billy is a resilient guy. He's always got a smile on his face. He understands life is short, and you've got to take care of it and enjoy it.'
Also in the waiting room the day of Mayfair's surgery was Phil Mickelson, one of his best friends on tour.
Mickelson flew from San Diego on Aug. 3 to be at the hospital during the surgery. Talking about Mayfair on Tuesday, Mickelson said he was thrilled about Mayfair's prognosis and amazed that modern medicine would allow him to return to golf so quickly.
He never mentioned that he had gone to the hospital to support him.
'Him being there in the waiting room tells me what kind of guy he is,' Mayfair said.
Mayfair still faces tough decisions.
The cancer was encapsulated, but Mayfair said he either must be tested every two or three months to make sure the cancer is gone, or go through two weeks' of radiation and be tested once or twice a year.
'For now, I've got a clean bill of health,' he said.
And he has a new outlook on life.
Mayfair recalls the last conversation he had with the anesthesiologist, a golf fan and Arizona State alum, just like Mayfair.
'He said, 'How do you handle the pressure of playing before all those people on the 16th hole at Phoenix?'' Mayfair said. 'And I said, 'That's nothing. This is real pressure.' That's the last thing I remember before I went to sleep.'
It must have all felt like a dream. In the span of 10 days, he felt the lump while taking a shower, was diagnosed with testicular cancer, flew home to Arizona, had surgery and received the best news that the cancer was gone.
'I should be thankful just for being here,' he said. 'And I am.'
If the last two weeks felt like a whirlwind, consider the last two years.
Mayfair's game was in such bad shape that he had to take a one-time exemption from the career money list to keep his card for the 2005 season, and he responded by qualifying for the Tour Championship. Once his golf game recovered, his marriage broke up, a divorce that is in the final stages.
And now the cancer.
'Everything happened all at once. Definitely, this has been the hardest year of life-changing things,' Mayfair said.
Then he smiled, happy to be healthy, excited to be at the final major the year without a trace of cancer in his body.
'And you know, if I play four good rounds, it could change my life again.'
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - PGA Championship
  • Getty Images

    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

    Getty Images

    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

    Getty Images

    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

    Getty Images

    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.