Enloe family

With wife fighting cancer, SMU's Enloe faces new reality

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 7, 2018, 1:45 pm

SMU’s season resumes next week, and head coach Jason Enloe has more on his mind than qualifying scores and travel arrangements.

After each round at the Golf Club of Houston, he will drive to a downtown hotel to see his wife, Katie, who is staying 10 minutes from MD Anderson Cancer Center, where she is now being treated for acute myeloid leukemia.

Best-case scenario, Katie will be there for the next seven to nine months. The doctors aren’t saying much. They’re optimistic they can beat this aggressive form of cancer – the same type that former PGA Tour player Jarrod Lyle is battling, for the third time – but they’ve promised nothing, other than a long and difficult road ahead.

“Just a complete shock to our systems,” Enloe said by phone recently. “We didn’t even have time to process it. It was just like, 'Holy s---, is this even real? When are we going to wake up from this bad dream?'”

It has all unfolded so quickly. About a month ago, during a routine self-exam, Katie, 35, discovered a lump in her breast that was firmer and bigger than any she’d felt in the past. Specialists in Dallas couldn’t pinpoint the problem. The Enloes braced for a breast-cancer diagnosis, but more tests revealed the blood cancer. With an assist from Amy Mickelson, Katie was quickly admitted to MD Anderson, the nation’s top-ranked cancer hospital, where she’ll receive treatment through at least August.

“We’ve settled in for a long, arduous journey,” Enloe said.

Last week, Katie endured five rounds of chemotherapy (with two or three more cycles to go). They spent the rest of the week in the hotel, watching movies and going for walks, ordering room service and sorting out their complicated short-term plans. She is feeling strong, and she’s in good spirits, but the Day 14 marker is approaching. That’s when most patients feel the chemo’s wrath, when their hair falls out in clumps and sores develop in their mouths.

The next step – a bone-marrow transplant – is the most critical. They need to find the perfect match. Doctors say they really only get one shot.

“It’d be nice to have a percentage, to know if you’ve got a good chance or a bad chance,” Enloe said, “but they haven’t really given us that kind of prognosis. So we’re betting on the doctors and modern medicine.”

Jason and Katie met through mutual friends in 2007, when he was still trying to carve out a career on the then-Nationwide Tour, and they married two years later. Two nights after their wedding, they went on a double date with Katie’s sister, Kandi, and one of Enloe’s pro golf buddies, Hunter Mahan. Those two hit it off immediately and married the following year.

“We’re a tight family,” Mahan said, breaking down over the phone, “and you just never know in life. This is what family is for, to support each other.”

And now the Enloes need that support more than ever.

When the family first received the diagnosis, the Mahans offered to bring the Enloes’ two young children – Emma, 5, and Maddie, 2 – on the road for two weeks. After stops in San Diego and Phoenix, and visits to Sea World and the PGA Tour Academy, the kids flew to Houston late last week to see their mom for the first time. Their stay didn’t even last 24 hours, after Katie began to feel ill.

“That was the worst part,” Enloe said, “seeing her tell them goodbye.”

He knows he can shield his kids from the truth for only so long. For now, he told them that Mommy is sick, and that her doctors are four hours away in Houston, and that the medicine will make her better, and that she’s going to be there for a while. Emma is already starting to ask more difficult questions.


Katie, Emma and Maddie Enloe (courtesy: Enloe family)


“I don’t want them to be affected by this too much,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to look in the rearview mirror and say, ‘Mommy was sick for a little bit,’ and we don’t think much of it.”

At home in Dallas, Enloe is in his fourth year running the men’s program at SMU, with responsibilities to his players and their parents, his recruits and his bosses. Everyone is planning to support Katie’s battle this spring with "TOGETHER WE STAND" bracelets, with ribbons or patches on their shirts and hats. He hopes his players are inspired.

So far Enloe has skipped a few weekday practices but never qualifying rounds. Last weekend, he addressed the team for the first time, providing an update on his wife’s health and offering some perspective, about how they should never take the women in their life for granted. “That role, being a mom,” he said, “is way harder than being the CEO of any major company.”

Because of his hectic, 24/7 job, he had no choice but to hire a nanny to help out on weekdays and when the Mustangs are on the road. In Houston, Katie’s mom, Debbie, has moved in, and a close friend visits often, bringing food and helping with laundry. With hotel expenses piling up, they’re looking into renting a corporate apartment, something more comfortable with more space for their extended stay. The Mahans recently started a YouCaring page for the family, and since it went live, more than 270 donors have raised nearly $75,000. (You can help here.)

“It’s crazy to fathom, and until it happens to you, it feels very far away,” Mahan said. “We don’t know what’s around the next corner, but we’re trying to alleviate any unnecessary stress.”

Still, Enloe can’t help but feel overwhelmed. All of Katie’s responsibilities around the house are now his. Even a simple task like paying the bills was eye-opening. “I didn’t even know where the checkbook was,” he said. “It’s stuff I haven’t had to worry about in the longest time.” 

And taking solo care of his two kids … well, that was an adjustment, too. His first night alone with them, the youngest got sick and didn’t fall asleep until 10:30 p.m.; the oldest helped and was up even later. “It was a s---show,” Enloe said. But he knows that Katie is counting on him, and that he has to be the “lead dog,” and that this is their new normal for the next several months.

“I’ll probably fail miserably,” he said, “but it won’t be from a lack of trying.”

This week, he is settling into a new routine. On Mondays and Wednesdays, after practice, he shuttles the girls to ballet class. He’s going to be a dance dad for a while, and that’s fitting – his kids have taken after Katie and Kandi, who were cheerleaders during the glory years of the Permian High School football team, the group made famous in “Friday Night Lights”. Every so often he checks in with Katie through texts and calls, but the conversations aren’t long. She needs to rest, and to stay positive, and that’s hard when so many emotions are involved.

“I’m scared to death,” he said. “I’m more scared about this than anything I’ve gone through golf-wise or personally, just because I have kids. They’re counting on me, and they usually count on mom. I just don’t want to screw it up.”

At night, when SMU practice and dance class and dinner is over, when the girls are bathed and tucked into bed, his mind wanders in so many directions, into dark and scary places, but he tries not to linger there long. There’s too much to do. He’s taking it hour by hour, day by day, trusting the doctors and praying for good news, for his family of four to be together again soon.

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Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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Thomas was asked about that.

“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”