Morgan Pressel didn’t win this year, but she got herself in the hunt again. She nicely put her game back together with a lot of hard work, and she was a large factor in the American victory at the Solheim Cup in September.
Watching Morgan play, I’m regularly curious how she’s stacking up. What’s her scoring average? How many birdies is she making? How many greens is she hitting and how are her putting stats?
I wondered something else watching her step on stage to receive a special award during Masters week back in April.
I wondered ... how many lives is she saving?
As the golf writer at the Sun Sentinel in South Florida before joining Golf Channel, I covered Morgan’s emergence in Boca Raton closely. I was practically her biographer, detailing her rise as a phenom who played in the U.S. Women’s Open as a 13-year-old. At the time, nobody younger had ever qualified for the championship.
Because of that connection, I was honored as a Golf Writers Association of America member to get to present Morgan as the winner of our Charlie Bartlett Award during the annual GWAA awards dinner at Augusta, Ga. The award honors contributions to the betterment of society through charitable giving. She was just 26. The GWAA has been giving out the award for five decades and nobody younger has ever won it.
Having dinner that night with Morgan and her husband, Andy Bush, ranked as my favorite personal moment of this year on so many levels.
Eight years earlier, I sat in the crowd watching LPGA Hall of Famer Judy Rankin receive the GWAA’s Ben Hogan Award for perseverance through handicap or illness. Rankin overcame breast cancer to continue her career as a TV golf analyst. She spoke eloquently that night about the insidious nature of breast cancer and how early detection really does save lives. It saved hers. At the end of her speech, she told women at the dinner to make sure to get their mammograms. And then she told the men there to make sure the women they love get mammograms.
When I got home, I told my wife, Nicki, about Rankin’s speech and asked her when she had her last mammogram. She sheepishly told me she hadn’t had one for about five years. I know there’s some emerging discussion over mammography, but I know this: My wife got a mammogram after I passed along Rankin’s story, and then she got the bad news that ended up saving her life. The mammogram revealed something amiss, and a follow-up biopsy revealed invasive ductal carcinoma. Nicki’s doctors told her that even though there had been some lengthy time between mammograms, her cancer was caught early and the outlook was encouraging. Nicki’s surgery was traumatic, and her life was turned upside down, but today she’s healthy and thriving.
I’ve thanked Judy for what her speech meant to our family, and I’m wondering how many families will be thanking Morgan for what her work means to them. Morgan was honored by the GWAA for her work fighting breast cancer. Morgan’s mother, Kathy Krickstei Pressel, was diagnosed with breast cancer when Morgan was 11 and died when Morgan was 15. It has motivated Morgan in special ways.
The Morgan Pressel Foundation has raised more than $4 million in the fight against breast cancer, much of it in her annual Morgan & Friends Fight Cancer Golf Tournament. She raised $750,000 in this year’s event at St. Andrews Golf Club in Boca Raton. Her work has led to the creation of the Morgan Pressel Center for Cancer Genetics at the Lynn Cancer Institute’s Breast Cancer Center at Boca Raton Regional Hospital and has also funded the Kathy Krickstein Pressel MammoVan, which makes state-of-the-art digital mammography mobile, taking the technology into communities for residents of Palm Beach County, where Pressel lives.
Cristie Kerr, Val Skinner and Rankin are among women in golf out front in the cause, and I can’t help looking at them and wondering how many lives they’ve saved. When you’ve been touched by breast cancer, you look at these women knowing they’re scoring in ways that go beyond golf.