From Hospital to US Open in 18 Months

By Associated PressJune 11, 2008, 4:00 pm
2008 U.S. OpenSAN DIEGO -- Brian Kortan felt the pain in his chest, then his jaw, then the heaviness in his arms. He put on his T-shirt and shorts, walked upstairs to his buddys room and said, Cmon, weve got to get to the emergency room.
 
He was having a heart attack, and when a man is 35 years old and having a heart attack'a so-called widow maker thats caused by blockage of the left anterior descending artery'its not uncommon for that trip to the emergency room to be the last trip he takes.
 
Kortan survived that scare in August 2006, and the fact that hes still around to talk about it means that, in many ways, hes already playing in the bonus round of life.
 
That he is also playing in the U.S. Open'well, thats just another one of those dreams that Kortan can check off his list.
 
Its going to be a great, gratifying experience, he said.
 
He will be there at 9:01 a.m. Thursday on the first tee box at Torrey Pines, 14 clubs in the bag, a handful of well-wishers on the other side of the ropes and a defibrillator near his heart. The defibrillator, about the size of a cell phone, was surgically implanted about a year ago.
 
Odds are, he wont win a championship this week. But then again, does he really have to be holding a trophy on Sunday to be called a champion?
 
He got his second chance, and slowly but surely hes been making it, said Kortans wife, Elaine. Id say playing in the U.S. Open is going to be a highlight for him.
 
Only the hardcore golf fans will remember Kortan.
 
He spent 2004 on the PGA TOUR. Made eight cuts. Earned almost $160,000. But that wasnt enough, and so he went back down to the Nationwide Tour in 2005. Lost his card there, too, though that turned out to be the least of his problems.
 
He knew of heart problems on his mothers side of the family but never did much about it. He is listed at 5-foot-3, 150 pounds and said those numbers were about the same before the heart attack. His cholesterol was low. He never had trouble walking the hundreds of miles of fairways he traversed each year as a pro golfer. He felt the occasional pains in his chest and a tightening of the jaw'the classic symptoms of heart problems, he said'but never thought much of that, either.
 
I was just completely naive, he said.
 
Staying at his friends house while playing on the South Dakota Tour, he made it to the hospital quickly enough on the night of the heart attack for doctors to save his life.
 
He emerged having lost about 40 to 50 percent of his heart function.
 
Ive had some changes in my life, I guess, he said.
 
He works out more. Eats better. He and Elaine keep better track of what their kids, 3-year-old Beau and 7-year-old Cade, are eating, too. Kortans mother got a check-up after Brians scare, and she had six stents put in her heart. Brian has three.
 
Golf, however, has not been put on the back burner.
 
Once you get past the top of this list'family and friends and things' golf is what makes me who I am. It makes me the person I am, Kortan said. It will be there. It will be there when Im done. When I hang the clubs up and decide to do something different someday, its still going to be a part of me.
 
After leaving the hospital and recuperating for a bit, doctors gave Kortan the go-ahead to get back into competition mode. But after a scare with some readings in his heart function, they insisted he take a break and go home to Albuquerque, N.M., to have a defibrillator implanted in his chest.
 
Its a small device that monitors the activity in his heart. If things arent operating normally, the device can shock his heart back into normalcy.
 
Fortunately, mine hasnt had to kick in yet, Kortan said. But its even to the point where, if it does, if I went into some sort of cardiac arrhythmia, it would actually shock me. And when it does shock you, it puts you to the floor.
 
But Kortan doesnt wait around wondering if thats going to happen.
 
He lives, plays golf, goes about his business the way a perfectly healthy person would. Walking Torrey Pines wont be nearly as hard for him, he says, as some of the tracks hes walked on the PGA TOUR'Castle Pines at 7,000 feet, or Memphis at 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity.
 
Yes, there will be stress this week, but doctors told him that shouldnt stop him from competing, either. After all, what job doesnt have stress?
 
He takes precautions, but he doesnt worry about anything, Elaine said. The defibrillator is the backup and he knows its there.
 
His golf game, as should be clear, is rounding back into form. He made it through two rounds of U.S. Open qualifying and was the medalist at the sectional round in Littleton, Colo.
 
He has finished in the top 5 three times on the Adams Pro Golf TOUR this year, and there are possible paths back to the big time for him, maybe via the Nationwide Tour'or maybe based on something that happens this week.
 
But even if this week ends early, it would be hard to call it anything but a success.
 
Im glad Im able to have this experience, Kortan said, because there were definitely some times over the last year and a half that I didnt know if Id ever get to experience something like this ever again.
 
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    Mickelson: 'Not my finest moment ... 'I'm sorry'

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 2:41 pm

    Days after his putter swipe ignited a controversy that threatened to overshadow the U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson offered an apology.

    Mickelson received a two-shot penalty for purposely hitting his ball while it was still in motion on the 13th green during the third round at Shinnecock Hills. In the eyes of the USGA, his actions fell short of a disqualification for a “serious breach” of the rules, and the 48-year-old ultimately matched his age with a T-48 finish after returning to play the final round.

    Mickelson declined to speak to reporters after a Sunday 66, but Wednesday he sent a note to a select group of media members that included Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte in which the five-time major champ offered some contrition.

    “I know this should’ve come sooner, but it’s taken me a few days to calm down. My anger and frustration got the best of me last weekend,” Mickelson wrote. “I’m embarrassed and disappointed by my actions. It was clearly not my finest moment and I’m sorry.”

    Mickelson’s actions drew ire from both media members and his fellow competitors, with members of both groups implying that his actions merited disqualification. His most recent remarks seem to indicate that the decision to run up and stop his ball from tumbling back across the 13th green was more of an impulse than the calculated use of the rule book he described after the third round at Shinnecock.

    “It’s certainly not meant (to show disrespect). It’s meant to take advantage of the rules as best you can,” Mickelson said Saturday. “In that situation I was just, I was just going back and forth. I’ll gladly take the two shots over continuing that display.”

    Mickelson is not in the field this week at the Travelers Championship and is expected to make his next start in two weeks at The Greenbrier.

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    Hubert Green, Hall of Famer, dies at 71

    By Golf Channel DigitalJune 20, 2018, 2:06 pm

    Hubert Green, a World Golf Hall of Famer who won 19 times on the PGA Tour, including the 1977 U.S. Open and 1985 PGA Championship, died Tuesday from complications following a lengthy battle with throat cancer. He was 71.

    A remarkably consistent player, Green used his distinctive swing to finish in the top 25 in a third of the PGA Tour events he entered. He also played on three Ryder Cup teams (1977, 1979, and 1985) and was undefeated in singles play.

    A native of Birmingham, Ala., Green graduated from Florida State University in 1968. While at FSU, he won the Cape Coral Intercollegiate tournament by eight strokes and the Miami Invitational, the nation’s largest collegiate tournament, by five strokes. He turned pro in 1969, earned his Tour card in 1970 and was named PGA Rookie of the Year in 1971.

    Green's first PGA Tour win was the 1971 Houston Champions International, in which he beat Don January in a playoff. Between 1973 and 1976 he won 10 more times, including a three-week stretch in 1976 when he won at Doral, Jacksonville and Hilton Head.

    Green won the 1977 U.S. Open at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., despite being informed of a death threat against him that had been anonymously telephoned to the course. He received the news after putting out on the 14th hole of the final round. He decided to keep playing, and wound up winning  by one stroke over Lou Graham.

    A seldom-remembered fact about Green: he finished third behind Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus in their 1977 "Duel in the Sun" Open Championship at Turnberry. He was 11 strokes behind winner Watson.

    Green won his second major championship in 1985, taking the PGA Championship at Cherry Hills. By a margin of two strokes, he denied Lee Trevino's bid to win back-to-back PGAs. It would be Green's last win on the PGA Tour. Afterward, Trevino praised his opponent, saying “He’s a great sand player and probably the best chipper we’ve got. Every time he got into trouble, he chipped it close to the hole.”

    Green joined what is now known as the PGA Tour Champions in 1997 and went on to win four times, the first win coming in 1998 in his hometown of Birmingham.

    Green was also involved in golf course design, including courses such as TPC Southwind,  Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga.; and Greystone Golf & Country Club in Birmingham.

    Green was diagnosed with stage-four throat cancer in 2003. Treated with chemotherapy and radiation, he continued playing golf. In 2005, he was named the Champions Tour's Comeback Player of the Year. He also received the Ben Hogan Award at the Masters that year. In 2007 he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

    Green is also remembered for his philanthropic efforts. Over the years he participated in hundreds of charity tournaments and community fund-raising events that supported a wide range of causes including childhood cancer, united cerebral palsy, and other illnesses.

    Green is survived by his wife Becky Blair, of Birmingham; three sons, Hubert Myatt Green Jr. of Hurricane, Utah; Patrick Myatt Green; and James Thomas Green (Adrienne) of Panama City, Fla.; sisters Melinda Green Powers and Carolyn Green Satterfield and brother Maurice O. V. Green, all of Birmingham, step-sons Richard O’Brien of New Orleans and Atticus O’Brien of Dallas, Texas, and several grandchildren.

    A memorial service is being planned at Highlands United Methodist Church in Birmingham, and details are pending. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Highlands United Methodist Church Community Ministry or to a charity of your choice.

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    Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

    By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

    Hailed as a hero to some and as golf royalty to others, Peter Thomson, a five-time winner of The Open and the only player in the 20th century to win the championship for three straight years, died Wednesday. He was 88.

    Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members, Golf Australia said.

    The first Australian to win The Open, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by American Tom Watson.

    The Australian's wins came in 1954, '55, '56, again in 1958 and lastly in 1965 against a field that included Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

    Only Harry Vardon, with six titles between 1896 and 1914, won more.

    Thomson also tied for fourth at the 1956 U.S. Open and placed fifth in the 1957 Masters. He never played the PGA Championship.

    In 1998, he captained the International side to its only win over the United States at the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

    Asked by The Associated Press in 2011 how he'd like to be remembered, Thomson replied: ''A guy who always said what he thought.''

    Veteran Australian golfer Karrie Webb was among the first to tweet her condolences, saying she was ''saddened to hear of the passing of our Aussie legend and true gentleman of the game .... so honored to have been able to call Peter my friend. RIP Peter.''

    Former PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Thomson was ''a champion in every sense of the word, both on the course and in life.''

    ''Many know him as a five-time champion golfer of the year or as a three-time captain of the Presidents Cup International team.'' Finchem added. ''But he was also a great friend, father, grandfather and husband. He was golfing royalty, and our sport is a better one because of his presence.''



    Former golfer and now broadcaster Ian Baker-Finch, the 1991 Open champion, called Thomson his ''hero'' - ''Peter - my friend and mentor R.I.P. Australian golf thanks you for your iconic presence and valuable guidance over the years.''

    From Britain, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers praised Thomson's plans for the game's future.

    ''Peter gave me a number of very interesting and valuable thoughts on the game, how it has developed and where it is going, which demonstrated his genuine interest and love of golf,'' Slumbers said. ''He was one of the most decorated and celebrated champion golfers in the history of The Open.''

    Born in the Melbourne inner-city suburb of Brunswick on Aug. 23, 1929, Thomson was a promising cricketer. He scored an unbeaten 150 runs for the Carlton club against a men's side as a 15-year-old.

    But golf became his passion, and he turned professional in 1947.

    He won the national championships of 10 countries, including the New Zealand Open nine times and Australian Open three times. He first played on the PGA Tour in the U.S. in 1953 and 1954, finishing 44th and 25th on the money list, respectively. He won the Texas International in 1956.

    Thomson won nine times on the Senior PGA tour in the U.S. in 1985, topping the money list. His last tournament victory came at the 1988 British PGA Seniors Championship, the same year he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

    Overall, he won 26 European Tour events, 34 times on the Australasian PGA tour and 11 on the seniors tour in the U.S, as well as once in Japan.

    In later years, Thomson wrote articles for many publications and daily newspapers, was club professional at Royal Melbourne and designed more than 100 golf courses. In the 2011 Presidents Cup program, Thomson provided an insightful hole-by-hole analysis of the composite course at Royal Melbourne.

    Thomson was always reluctant to compare his wins with anyone else's.

    ''All records are qualified in that they were made at a certain time in history,'' Thomson told golf historian and author Brendan Moloney for a story on his 80th birthday.

    ''The circumstances change so much, and so do the players' attitudes. In golf, only in the last 30 years or so has there been a professional attitude to playing for money. The professionals in the USA and Britain and anywhere else all had club jobs as a backstop to their income.

    ''When they did play and make records, you have to understand that they were taking time off from the pro shop,'' he said. ''So the records that were set were pretty remarkable.''

    Thomson always had stories to tell, and told them well. With a full head of hair and a lineless face that belied his age, the Australian wasn't afraid to let everyone know his feelings on any subject.

    That was true as far back as 1966. As president of the Australian PGA, Thomson was indignant that Arnold Palmer's prize for winning the Australian Open was only $1,600, out of a total purse of $6,000, one of the smallest in golf.

    ''Golf Stars Play for Peanuts,'' blared the headline of a story he wrote. ''Never before has such a field of top golfers played for what $6,000 is worth today. Canada offers 19 times that. I know 19 other countries who give more.''

    But he was always happy on the golf course.

    ''I've had a very joyful life, playing a game that I loved to play for the sheer pleasure of it,'' Thomson said. ''I don't think I did a real day's work in the whole of my life.''

    Thomson served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years and worked behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

    In 1979, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf, and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

    Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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    Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

    By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

    In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

    This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

    Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

    Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

    The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.