Montana Coach Awaits Transplant Prepares for NCAAs
It's become a daily ritual in Steele's life, along with caring for her two daughters and coaching the Montana women's golf team to its first bid in the NCAA women's tournament. All the while, her name sits on a transplant list at the University of Washington Medical Center, and Steele patiently waits for a new heart that could prolong her life.
'I call it my breakfast,' Steele says of her morning ritual of taking up to 10 pills a day. 'There's every color in there.'
The 35-year-old Steele suffers from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy -- a genetic disease that causes the heart muscle to abnormally thicken. There is no cure for the disease, and medication can only serve to treat complications that may develop, trying improve the quality of life to a certain degree.
A transplant remains the most viable option for future health.
'That's the route I have to take. (The doctors) don't force you into that situation but they gave me the full scenario and I trust them,' Steele said on Wednesday as her Grizzlies prepared for the NCAA west region tournament.
Some people who have the disease go through life unaware they have the it because symptoms never develop. Steele lived her first 29 years without knowing -- until the birth of her second daughter.
Short and petite, Steele put on 60 pounds during her second pregnancy, after gaining just 12 pounds with her first daughter. Sydnie was born two months early, but two weeks after her birth unaware colleagues continued to ask Steele when she planned to deliver.
'It made me open my eyes and say 'Joanne, obviously you don't look good,'' Steele said.
And thus began Steele's battle with the disease. It started with a battery of medication that managed the symptoms for about 3 1/2 years.
Eighteen months ago, the condition intensified as Steele began to experience atrial fibrillation -- a rapid increase of heart rate. She was constantly fatigued and had spells of dizziness.
Her first episode of fibrillation lasted 10 days where her heart rate hovered around 200 beats per minute. As her heart sped, Steele could feel her other organs exerting trying to keep her body functioning. Last October, Steele reached her breaking point as she felt herself diminishing rapidly.
'The docs in Missoula, they're great, but they wanted to take (a) wait-and-see approach,' Steele said. 'But I could see what was happening. I didn't think waiting was another option.'
After visiting a doctor in Helena, she was referred to Dr. Jeanne Poole in Seattle. Her first visit came in early November and by the end of the month, Steele and her husband, Cory, had made the seven-hour drive from Missoula to Seattle four times -- and went home following the final trip with a pacemaker and defibrillator implanted in her chest.
Steele spent more time in Seattle that month than with her daughters in Montana, she said. Every day though, her players back in Missoula had a well-defined plan of what they needed to work on, even with their coach 475 miles away.
'She'll leave for Seattle and she has everything set up for us all the time,' Montana senior Mary Hasselberg said. 'She doesn't think about herself. She puts us first, her family first all the time.
'She's happy, all the time, no matter what's going on.'
Steele was placed on the transplant list in December. When a heart becomes available, Steele has roughly four hours to get to Seattle. She has contacted private plane owners in Missoula and lined up transportation when the call finally comes.
In between her visits to the doctors in Seattle, Steele directed the Grizzlies to their finest season. She was selected as the Big Sky coach of the year by her peers, after Montana won its first conference championship. The Grizzlies won the conference tournament by eight shots, but were unaware of their standing until after Jasi Acharya sank her putt on No. 18 to card a 1-under 71.
Much like the calm demeanor of their coach, the Grizzlies accepted their title as though it was a common occurrence. The joyous screams were muted until the team drove away from the course.
'I'm a pretty mellow person, but I was definitely excited for them,' Steele said.
Advancing from the regional tournament is unlikely. The Grizzlies are seeded last of the 21 teams competing, and no Big Sky school has ever advanced to the NCAA championships.
On Wednesday, Steele walked the course with her players during their practice round. She's a traditionalist who despises carts, but admits she could maybe walk just one hole while carrying her clubs right now.
And this from someone who use to walk 36 holes with no problem.
'To tell me to take a cart is really difficult,' Steele said.
She doesn't know when the call will come informing her a new heart is available and doctors can not give her a timeline on how quickly her heart may diminish. According to the American Heart Association, there were 2,016 heart transplants in 2004 and females have a five-year survival rate of 68.5 percent.
Steele tries not to dwell on the situation and never brings it up with her players, yet will always answer questions regarding her condition. She could teach a class on cardiology with all she's learned in the last six months, but Steele would rather spend her time on the golf course with her players.
'It's good for me to get out, and do that and not feel I'm limited in what I can do,' Steele said. 'I just need to be the strongest person I can each day.'
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Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker
John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.
The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.
That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.
He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.
Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters
Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.
Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.
In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.
Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.
“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”
Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking.
Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup
In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.
Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.
Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.
“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”
McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.
“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
September can’t get here quick enough.
Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.
There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.
In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.
“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”
The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”
Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.
Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.
The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.
The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.
“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.
Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.
After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.
It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.
Tweet of the week:
Welp I didn’t get hit by a ballistic missile today so that’s a plus! #imalive— John Peterson (@JohnPetersonFW) January 14, 2018
It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”
The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.
Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake
Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.
While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.
“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.
Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.