McGann Optimistic But Diabetes a Constant Reminder


Patty Sheehan announced her Solheim Cup picks the other day. Michelle McGann wasnt among them.
No surprise there. Shes 78th on the LPGA money list. Only 12 Americans are selected, and the list doesnt reach down nearly as far as 78th. It looks more and more like the Solheim of 96, when McGann played a key role in winning the Cup in Wales, will have no more chapters.
That was the year the Americans trailed Europe, 9-7, going into Sundays singles. But in the third singles match, McGann defeated Europes top player, Laura Davies, 3 and 2. Davies had blown through the Yanks by a combined 16-hole difference and was playing before a hugely enthusiastic home crowd as a bonus. But McGanns 3-wood on the par-3 16th rolled to within four feet of the flag and ended the match with an explanation point. America went on to win 10 of 12 points in the singles matches and came home with a 17-11 victory.
That was supposed to be the 26-year-olds first in a long series of important victories, not the last. But by the time the 98 matches rolled around, a 28-year-old McGann had slipped to 45th on the money list and was not chosen. McGann was 30 in 2000 and finished down in the 31st spot ' not nearly good enough for a selection. And this year, as a 32-year-old, she checks in at No. 78. Thats far too low for Solheim consideration.
McGann, you see, has diabetes. She knew it when she turned professional at the age of 19, electing to forego a college career because she knew she had better play professionally while she could. She had a wonderful career from 92 until 97, never finishing below 18th.
But since then, McGann has had numerous health problems. Shes well set financially with $3.2 million in tour earnings alone and probably at least that much in endorsements. But its tough to be only 32 and, apparently, have your best years behind you.
Michelle McGannMichelle had a 67 in a tournament a couple of weeks ago and talked excitedly about how this might be the start of something big again. She had a new putter and it had really helped.
But Friday, it was back to the on-again, off-again golf game as she signed for a 72, then Saturday it was the same old grind with a score of 75. Sunday she showed a little spark of the old form with a 69, but it was another tournament outside the top 20, another day of hoping and praying that she could cope with the frustrations of diabetes.
You start having self-doubt, as in any profession, she said. Ive fought diabetes, everyday - its a fight. Its not a disease you have control over. You have a 500 blood sugar one day and you have to deal with it.
Yesterday it was very hot and there are a few hills out there, and I didnt even realize my blood sugar was getting high and I ate all day. But today I only had a peanut butter sandwich. Its difficult with adrenaline, too. You can let it beat you up or you can get out and fight it.
Shes fought it a long time now. The invention of the insulin pump was a blessing. McGann started using it three or four years ago, and it has helped her keep playing.
It is a pump in my stomach that gives me a constant flow of insulin 24 hours a day, she explained. It helps me be able to keep my blood sugar level. I count the carbohydrates in food and look at what I eat, and instead of taking shots, it is always with me. This insulin is fast acting.
Ive talked to doctors and its a fine line. Adrenaline sometimes shoots it up, but it doesnt affect it all the time. Being dehydrated is a huge factor. When I have high blood sugar, I have headaches, but with the pump my blood sugar stays level.
Still, the diabetes is there, an omnipresent reminder that golf for her could end at any time. Every day is a battle, with McGann struggling to stay positive.
I try to be, said Michelle, but its very frustrating. I had a lot of good goals set for this year, and I felt great starting the year with my health. There is an occasional day when I want to throw the insulin pump and never have diabetes again. I really hope I see the cure someday and dont have to worry about it anymore.
But the insulin pump is wonderful, and its so much easier to manage your own shots. The heat affects me more, especially when I get dehydrated. I think that feeling good with my health all year keep has kept me positive. If my blood sugar is low then high, its hard to adjust.

McGann is fighting two fights. The first, with her fellow LPGA pros, is a struggle to make a living. The other one, far more serious, is with the diabetes. She might be slowly losing the first, but she is winning the second. And really, that is all that matters.