That was Mark James in 2004. This week, he returns to the Detroit area to defend his title. Hes enormously thankful that he has the chance, thank you.
The string of events is still startlingly clear to him, starting with the first inklings that something was wrong.
I had a very big tumor in the middle of my body that was about 10 inches by 4 in the abdominal cavity that originated in the testicle, he explained. They didn't know what kind of cancer it was at first. I was very ill at that point. I couldn't eat. The stomach pushed on the tumor and the spine. I was very ill, not eating, losing weight rapidly.
I had to have a full laparoscopy to get a full diagnosis and get the tissue out to decide what kind of treatment to have. As soon as we knew the type of cancer, they said it's not too bad, you have a 90 percent chance here.
I started chemo very quickly, and immediately the pain went because the tumor started to react. It was sort of a period of six weeks it was very worrying, but then it eventually got better and the chemo went well, and everything went fine after that.
Of course, its always a real cause for alarm when the doctors mention the word cancer.
I was diagnosed in 2000 and had an operation October 2000, he said. I finished my chemo January 1st and had another operation to remove the remnants of the dead tumor in February '01, but I came back and went skiing five weeks after that. It was brilliant. I had been working out and everything, but I didn't have the strength. If I made the cut and lasted four rounds, I was exhausted. On your feet for five or six hours a day for five days was very difficult. It was about 18 months.
Naturally, playing successful golf after such an ordeal would be difficult. But being a rookie on the Champions Tour in 2004, it was almost impossible to think he could win.
I knew it would be tough to win, he said. I was under no illusions, absolutely. These days, there are good players on every tour and every tournament. If you win in America or Europe, you've beaten a strong field. There is more depth than I thought on this tour.
I knew there was good players and I had a lot of respect for them, but there is still more depth than I expected.
Of course, once he recovered from the cancer, there were still the normal aches and pains to worry about. A knee operation, for example, plagued him before the Ford Seniors victory.
'I tore the meniscus, and I realized I couldn't play anymore, so I had the operation,' said James. 'I was organized to see the Miami Dolphins' surgeon.
'He fast-tracked me and did the operation that Friday after, and then I ended up in Mexico I think for three weeks after the operation, which is great. They were really helpful. The doctor, surgeon, was brilliant. It was really good of him.'
The victory was a near impossibility, James figured.
'This is the biggest win of my career, without question,' James said. 'To win a major, it's incredible. This is definitely the biggest win of my career.'