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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Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son
ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.
Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.
''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''
They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.
''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''
Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.
''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''
Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.
Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.
Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.
Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.
Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.