McPherson Tough Enough


2007 Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. ' David McPherson cant help marveling watching his baby girl.
Kristys 27 now, but this proud father says hell always see her that way even as he watches her compete against the best women in the world in a bid to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship on Sunday.
If you have children, you know how it is, how theres something different about the youngest child, McPherson said of the youngest of his four children.
Kristy McPherson
Kristy McPherson has faced tougher challenges than the final round of a major championship. (Getty Images
The memories of this baby girl can make a grown man cry.
Theyve made the whole family cry, David said.
Watching Kristy march so steadfastly around Mission Hills touches David because it seems like yesterday he was lifting her out of her bed in their Conway, S.C., home and cradling her out to the front porch, where she would watch the neighbor kids play on Woodfield Circle.
At 11, Kristy was stricken with Stills Disease, a form of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. David watched the disease ravage his baby girls body with stunning swiftness. It caused her face and joints to swell grossly. There were mornings she couldnt open her eyes. Her internal organs became inflamed, and she would break out in fevers and salmon-colored rashes.
For nearly a year, Kristy was bedridden. For about seven months, she didnt walk.
Wed pick her up and carry her out on the porch so she could be outside, David said.
David said treatment of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis wasnt as advanced as it is today. The specialist treating Kristy prepared the family for the worst case scenario, that Kristy might not live to see her 30th birthday.
It was destroying her body so bad, said David, 58, an electrical contractor. They didnt have anything as good as they have now to treat it.
David said he read in Readers Digest about methotrexate, a drug that would prove to be the answer to the familys prayers.
It was the greatest drug ever, I thought, David said. It was like a magic drug. It seemed like about three weeks after she started taking it, she was up and walking again.
Still, Kristy would return to school in a wheelchair as a 12-year-old. That was tough on a once athletic child who excelled in team sports. As a respite from the four walls at home, David would take her golfing with him at Pineland Country Club near Myrtle Beach. At first, she just rode in the cart, watching. Doctors forbid her from playing sports that required running or jumping, but when she was strong enough, she took up golf.
Kristy took to the sport quickly, pouring herself so completely into it that she was good enough to play on the boys high school team when she was 14. She earned a scholarship to the University of South Carolina, where she was a three-time first-team All-America selection and won seven collegiate events.
Turning pro would test her, though. She struggled on the Duramed Futures Tour for four years before finally earning LPGA membership. She tees it up Sunday looking to make her first LPGA victory a major. In 50 LPGA events, she has never finished better than a tie for fourth.
Yeah, that makes Kristy a long shot, especially with Cristie Kerr breathing down her neck just a shot back. Kerr, an 11-time LPGA winner who won the U.S. Womens Open in 07, seems to have fate on her side. She hit a tee shot at the 14th hole that was screaming right toward the water when it hit the rocks on the waters edge and kicked hard left, nearly rolling into the hole.
It was the hand of God, Kerr said.
Cosmic forces seem to be helping Kristy, too. Her golf seems like a miracle given her feeble state as a child. The rheumatoid arthritis still strikes unexpectedly. At last years Longs Drugs Challenge outside San Francisco, Kristy awakened with one eye swollen shut and the other nearly shut.
She played with one eye, David said. Shes tough.
David knows tough, too. He faced his own challenges watching Kristy hit every one of her 70 shots Saturday. He rode a scooter, hopping out with a cane at tees and greens. He had his left hip replaced after being diagnosed with bone cancer six years ago. Doctors also removed his left femur and replaced it with a titanium one. Nine days after his last surgery, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer, but hes recovered from both.
I am cancer free today, David said.
Davids wife and Kristys mom, Janice, will join David in the gallery Sunday. So will Kristys sister, Michelle.
Asked if the trials and tribulations of youth help her overcome golfs toughest challenges, Kristy pauses.
I dont think like that, that I can come back after making a bogey because I came back from being sick, but I do think having gone through that allows me not to put so much pressure on myself, but to take everything as a blessing, McPherson said.
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