Montana Coach Awaits Transplant Prepares for NCAAs
It's become a daily ritual in Steele's life, along with caring for her two daughters and coaching the Montana women's golf team to its first bid in the NCAA women's tournament. All the while, her name sits on a transplant list at the University of Washington Medical Center, and Steele patiently waits for a new heart that could prolong her life.
'I call it my breakfast,' Steele says of her morning ritual of taking up to 10 pills a day. 'There's every color in there.'
The 35-year-old Steele suffers from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy -- a genetic disease that causes the heart muscle to abnormally thicken. There is no cure for the disease, and medication can only serve to treat complications that may develop, trying improve the quality of life to a certain degree.
A transplant remains the most viable option for future health.
'That's the route I have to take. (The doctors) don't force you into that situation but they gave me the full scenario and I trust them,' Steele said on Wednesday as her Grizzlies prepared for the NCAA west region tournament.
Some people who have the disease go through life unaware they have the it because symptoms never develop. Steele lived her first 29 years without knowing -- until the birth of her second daughter.
Short and petite, Steele put on 60 pounds during her second pregnancy, after gaining just 12 pounds with her first daughter. Sydnie was born two months early, but two weeks after her birth unaware colleagues continued to ask Steele when she planned to deliver.
'It made me open my eyes and say 'Joanne, obviously you don't look good,'' Steele said.
And thus began Steele's battle with the disease. It started with a battery of medication that managed the symptoms for about 3 1/2 years.
Eighteen months ago, the condition intensified as Steele began to experience atrial fibrillation -- a rapid increase of heart rate. She was constantly fatigued and had spells of dizziness.
Her first episode of fibrillation lasted 10 days where her heart rate hovered around 200 beats per minute. As her heart sped, Steele could feel her other organs exerting trying to keep her body functioning. Last October, Steele reached her breaking point as she felt herself diminishing rapidly.
'The docs in Missoula, they're great, but they wanted to take (a) wait-and-see approach,' Steele said. 'But I could see what was happening. I didn't think waiting was another option.'
After visiting a doctor in Helena, she was referred to Dr. Jeanne Poole in Seattle. Her first visit came in early November and by the end of the month, Steele and her husband, Cory, had made the seven-hour drive from Missoula to Seattle four times -- and went home following the final trip with a pacemaker and defibrillator implanted in her chest.
Steele spent more time in Seattle that month than with her daughters in Montana, she said. Every day though, her players back in Missoula had a well-defined plan of what they needed to work on, even with their coach 475 miles away.
'She'll leave for Seattle and she has everything set up for us all the time,' Montana senior Mary Hasselberg said. 'She doesn't think about herself. She puts us first, her family first all the time.
'She's happy, all the time, no matter what's going on.'
Steele was placed on the transplant list in December. When a heart becomes available, Steele has roughly four hours to get to Seattle. She has contacted private plane owners in Missoula and lined up transportation when the call finally comes.
In between her visits to the doctors in Seattle, Steele directed the Grizzlies to their finest season. She was selected as the Big Sky coach of the year by her peers, after Montana won its first conference championship. The Grizzlies won the conference tournament by eight shots, but were unaware of their standing until after Jasi Acharya sank her putt on No. 18 to card a 1-under 71.
Much like the calm demeanor of their coach, the Grizzlies accepted their title as though it was a common occurrence. The joyous screams were muted until the team drove away from the course.
'I'm a pretty mellow person, but I was definitely excited for them,' Steele said.
Advancing from the regional tournament is unlikely. The Grizzlies are seeded last of the 21 teams competing, and no Big Sky school has ever advanced to the NCAA championships.
On Wednesday, Steele walked the course with her players during their practice round. She's a traditionalist who despises carts, but admits she could maybe walk just one hole while carrying her clubs right now.
And this from someone who use to walk 36 holes with no problem.
'To tell me to take a cart is really difficult,' Steele said.
She doesn't know when the call will come informing her a new heart is available and doctors can not give her a timeline on how quickly her heart may diminish. According to the American Heart Association, there were 2,016 heart transplants in 2004 and females have a five-year survival rate of 68.5 percent.
Steele tries not to dwell on the situation and never brings it up with her players, yet will always answer questions regarding her condition. She could teach a class on cardiology with all she's learned in the last six months, but Steele would rather spend her time on the golf course with her players.
'It's good for me to get out, and do that and not feel I'm limited in what I can do,' Steele said. 'I just need to be the strongest person I can each day.'
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88
MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said 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 on Wednesday morning.
Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.
The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.
On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.
Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.
He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.
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.
Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.
Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M
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.
Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout
CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.
Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.
Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.
“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”
Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.
“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”
Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break
Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.
Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.
Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.
“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”
Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.
“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”
Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.