The Dark Side of Scott Verplank

By George WhiteMay 11, 2004, 4:00 pm
Scott Verplank traces the date back to five years ago. So much water ran over the bridge before then. So little, almost a trickle, has gone since that date. And hes very thankful for the small favors.
Call it BP ' before pump ' and AP ' after pump. After the pump (insulin pump), he can actually control his old miserable sidekick ' diabetes. Before he had the insulin pump, he had to rely on a daily regimen of daily injections, administered by guess who, and it seemed like he never could get it right.
Its still a crapshoot at times, he says. Being a diabetic is very difficult, even in the best of circumstances. But now he can live without the daily regimen of a needle. And that is an immense relief.
Its like when I was a kid 30 years ago when I became diabetic ' it was like living in the stone age compared to now, said Verplank.
Now its like going to Mars and landing, compared to what it was like then. Technology has made it so much easier.
Verplank has labored with the disease all his adult life. Its not easy to describe if you dont have it. But suffice it to say that, when all systems arent go, youd rather be in bed than anywhere in the world. But its impossible to crawl in bed when youre entered in a golf tournament and you have another 10 holes to play.
Being diabetic, Ive always said its hard to have a good attitude or to be fired up to do anything if you dont feel good, he said, chatting at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship. So thats why me feeling good is much more important to me than how Im swinging or anything else.
Many times Verplank has felt like a million bucks when the tournament started, only to feel like owes a hundred come Saturday. Somehow he has to fight through it. The wonder is that he has done it ' many times. He almost won this year, losing a playoff at the Ford Championship at Doral when Craig Parry holed out a fairway shot.
Hes having problems with his feet now, though he thinks the two are only partially related.
I felt like I was about crippled Saturday and Sunday in New Orleans, said Verplank. I mean, I was having a hard time taking a step after I would stand over a putt, because I didnt want to move my heel.
Plantar fiscitis, Verplank said was the foot problem. Like the disabetes, the feeling comes and goes. Some days its non-existent. Other days, its very existent.
Today is the best Ive felt in two or three weeks, he said, so Im looking forward to getting that behind me where I can get back to playing like I was earlier this year.
He went through some rather curious treatments for the foot ailment, including the sock treatment. Theyve got this sock now you can wear while youve sleeping, so Im all bound up in this sock deal that looks pretty good laying there in bed with all these things pulling on my toes and on my feet, he said with a laugh.
The diabetes, though, has never been something to laugh about. Diabetes has sidetracked Michelle McGann from a very successful career on the LPGA. Both McGann and Verplank now live with the pump, both with much more of a life of the course than they had without it. But life is never very easy when youve got diabetes.
Its still a very difficult thing to live with, agreed Verplank. And it doesnt take care of itself. You have to take care of it. But it is much easier.
I mean, theres just a lot ' you have more advantages now. You just have a lot more insight and better education, and its easier to deal with now.
Somehow, the problems of golf don't seem so bad anymore. Bogeys lose a little bit of their biting edge. Life's everyday problems seem so trivial at times when you don't have to worry about the effects of a foe that can rise up at any time and strike you.
Scott Verplank, though has this fight that he wrestles with every day. And the fight continues long after he leaves the golf course. Golf lasts only for 30 years or so. Diabetes lasts forever.
Email your thoughts to George White

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.