Life Death and the Fight for a Cure

By Mercer BaggsFebruary 6, 2007, 5:00 pm
It was one of those perfect scenes. Right out of a movie. The sun slowly beginning its descent behind the pines. The temperature cooling at a quicker pace. A man, a woman walking side-by-side, arms wrapped around each other for love and warmth.
The date was January 29, 2002. The setting was Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif. The couple was Jeff and Kim Julian.
'That week in Pebble Beach is probably my most memorable (time) with Jeff in golf,' Kim said by phone Monday from her home in Newton, Mass. 'It was just a wonderful, wonderful week.'
Jeff and Kim Julian
Jeff and Kim Julian. (Photo courtesy: Driving 4 Life)
Belying the beauty of that one particular moment was the fact that Jeff was waging an un-winnable war with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Jeff had been diagnosed with Bulbar ALS in the fall of 2001. By the time he had arrived to play the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on a sponsors exemption, just three months thereafter, the effects were all-too evident.
Jeffs speech was slow and slurred. He used his hands to stretch and move his cheeks and jaw. His teeth chattered uncontrollably in the cold.
ALS is commonly known as Lou Gehrigs disease. Its a neurological disease that normally starts in the limbs and, like a moving kill switch, works up the body disabling ones speech, swallowing and respiratory system along the way.
But thats where it started for Jeff. The corticobulbar area of his brainstem, which controls the muscles of the mouth and tongue, was severely affected.
There is no cure for ALS. Fifty percent of its victims die in the first 18 months of diagnosis. Julians form, a rarer variety, was more severe.
The only thing is to stay positive, Jeff said that day. Positive, thats it. The way I play golf is the way Im fighting this.
Jeff was a talented player, a winner on whats now called the Nationwide Tour, a guy who twice qualified for the PGA TOUR.
Golf was his life. And ALS took that away. On July 15, 2004, it took away his life as well.
Earlier that year, a Golf Channel crew went to the Julians home in Branson, Mo., to document the daily trials of Jeff and Kim.
By this point, Jeff could no longer play golf, and that was disheartening. Unfortunately, it was far from the worst of his debilitations.
Jeff could no longer walk. He could no longer talk. He could no longer breathe on his own. He couldnt feed himself, dress himself, bathe himself.
ALS attacks that quickly, that mercilessly.
Two-and-a-half years after his diagnosis, Jeff, a 42-year-old former professional athlete who stood 62 and weighed nearly 200 pounds, needed an electric wheelchair to move. He needed a computerized voice system to communicate. He needed his left big toe to operate the computer. He needed a ventilator to breathe.
He needed Kim for everything else.
ALS took away just about everything from Jeff, except his sense of humor -- 'It's not easy to be funny in a monotone, mechanical voice, but I like to try anyway,' he said that day through his computer -- and his family.
Jeff and Kim met at a golf tournament about 45 minutes away from her hometown of Branson. They were married for only eight months before they learned of Jeffs disease.
After Jeffs death, many, her family, she says, among them, wanted her to move on with her life. They felt she needed separation from the disease that had taken so much from her ' so much of her.
This she could not do.
Instead, she and her 14-year-old son Tyler (from a previous marriage) moved to Massachusetts. They settled in a town called Newton. It allowed her to start grieving on my own. It also allowed her to be nearer the ALS Therapy Development Foundation, now called ALS TDI.
Theres never been a time when I wanted to distance myself (from the disease), she said. It became so much bigger than Jeff. I could never have turned my back on it.
Kim went to work for a charity campaign known as Driving 4 Life, a fund-raising vehicle established in March 2003 by Jeff, Bruce Edwards, Tom Watson and ALS TDI. Edwards, Watsons longtime and legendary caddie, was also afflicted with ALS and died just one month before Jeff.
Jeff Julian and Family
The Julian family, clockwise from top left: Jeff, Kim, Tyler, Keegan. (Photo courtesy: Driving 4 Life)
Through a series of golf tournaments (more than 30 on the 2007 calendar), auctions and donations, Driving 4 Life (the 4 was Lou Gehrigs baseball jersey number) has raised over $5 million in less than four years ' all of which goes directly to ALS TDI.
Its been a wonderful outlet for me, Kim says of working with the campaign. In essence, its kept Jeff alive.
This isnt a completely selfish endeavor. Healing her own wounds is just a small part of Kims motivation. I know what its like to deal with this, she says. I want to help comfort others.
Shes been doing that as best she can for years now. Shes befriended the families of those suffering from ALS, riding the roller-coaster with them, empathizing with them, crying over their loss like it was her own.
Kim is currently going to Boston College part time, majoring in Psychology. She hopes to expand her contributions to fighting this terror by offering professional support to the care givers.
People need to hear, Youre going to be OK, she says. You really need to hear that.
Kim says that many people associated with the disease dont like to talk about a timeline in relation to a cure. You just never know, she says. It could come at any time.
She makes sure to point out that shes not a doctor, but that I honestly think we will have (a cure) in five years.
Thats Kims hope. And, hope, as Andy Dufresne said in The Shawshank Redemption is a good thing, maybe the best thing.
The only thing better would be a cure.
Progress is being made every second of every day, she adds. Every day theres a little bit of something here, something there. Theres something new every day.
Whats truly needed is money, more and more money for research and testing. ALS, which affects 30,000 people throughout the U.S., according to ALS TDI, doesnt receive the notoriety of other diseases and thus it doesnt receive equal funding.
It got a huge boost recently, however, when the Muscular Dystrophy Association awarded ALS TDI an $18 million grant, challenging the foundation to raise the same amount over the next six years. Driving 4 Life, Kim says, is hoping to up its contributions to $2 million annually.
On October 8, 2001, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis officially entered the lives of Jeff and Kim Julian. It took Jeffs life 33 months later. It is still a large part of Kims life to this day.
In Newton, Kim lives just a couple of hours away from Jeffs 16-year-old son from a previous marriage, Keegan. She and Tyler see him as often as they can. She also keeps an eye on golf. When she married Jeff, she not only entered a life-long commitment with the man, but with the sport he loved so much as well.
This week, the PGA TOUR heads to Pebble Beach. And, undoubtedly, her colleagues will be talking about who did this and who did that throughout the tournament. She, on the other hand, will be thinking about one unforgettable week five years ago. When Jeff was not just a man with ALS, but a golfer ' a competitor. A fighter.
Jeff didnt make the cut that week. But its his grit and determination to make it to the fourth and final round that makes Kim smile to this very day.
His (amateur) partner Pard Erdman said, Well, Jeff, if we miss the cut then well play Cypress (Point),' Kim recalled. Jeff looked at him and said, Id rather play Pebble. Id rather make the cut.
That was a good example of Jeff and his courage. He just never gave up.
And neither has Kim.
To make a contribution to ALS research and ALS TDI, contact Driving 4 Life
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
Related Links:
  • More on Jeff Julian
  • An Inspirational Rock at Pebble (January 30, 2002)
  • Life Goes on for the Julians (January 26, 2004)
  • Lerner: Julian Lives On (July 15, 2004)
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    Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

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    It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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    Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

    Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

    Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

    “I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

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    The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

    “The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

    Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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    Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

    LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

    Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

    ''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

    It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

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    ''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

    Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

    ''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

    After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

    ''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

    He's making his first start in the event.

    ''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

    Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

    ''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

    Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

    ''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

    The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

    ''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

    Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

    ''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

    Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

    Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

    Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

    John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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    Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

    Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

    He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

    How rare is his missing the cut there?

    The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

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    The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

    The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

    Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

    Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.