Am Tour: Hilgers doesn't let cancer stop Nationals run

By Brandon TuckerSeptember 18, 2014, 7:38 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - John Hilgers’ life in golf would be the envy of most who have ever taken up the game.

Hilgers, 64, grew up in Austin, Texas, where his father was a founding member of Austin Country Club and his junior golf rivals included Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite. He'd often spend mornings on the first tee of ACC beside legendary instructor Harvey Penick.

"By osmosis you've gotta be able to pick up something," laughed Hilgers, who now lives west of Austin in Wimberley. "Somebody who grew up with Ben Crenshaw and Harvey Penick ought to be able to shoot in the 70s."

This week Hilgers, competing in the Hogan Flight (handicaps 8-11.9), played in his first Golf Channel Am Tour Senior National Championship. He shot 77-77-85-84--323, good for a tie for sixth place. He had hoped for a top-5 finish, but he was happy nevertheless, especially after making a birdie on his final hole. "I had the best week of my life," he said. "The camaraderie, the relationships you get to build over a competitive sport. Where else can you do that?"

Hilgers has had a busy golf campaign in 2014, competing in 25 events leading up to nationals, winning six times.


Am Tour flight winners: Championship, Snead | Hogan, Sarazen | Jones, Palmer


And did it all despite having terminal cancer. Multiple myeloma, according to the American Cancer Society, is "a cancer formed by malignant plasma cells," mainly in bone marrow. The disease is incurable, but treatable. Median survival rates range from 62 months for Stage I to 29 months for Stage III.  

Hilgers was diagnosed five years ago, after he became overheated on the golf course. Since then he has lost 90 pounds and three inches of height and has had five compound fractures in his back. His immune system is decimated. In spite of all that, he's playing as much golf - competitive golf - as he can.

Earlier this year, golf had grown painful and his game suffered. Fearing there was no way he could play well four days in a row, he canceled his Am Tour Nationals registration.

Then, an unexpected turnaround: His doctors prescribed stronger painkillers - morphine, plus a patch of synthetic heroin he wears 24 hours a day.

And just like that, Hilgers' game took off. He won three Am Tour events in a row, including the two-day Dallas Tour Championship at The Tribute.

Suddenly, the national championship was back in his mind.

"I thought, I better try and enter and see what I can do," Hilgers said.

"I think I can win this thing."

To help defray his medical bills as well as tournament entry fees, his Wimberley-based fan club, "Team Little John" held a golf outing in July to raise $12,000. The event included an auction of two Masters pin flags signed by two-time winner Crenshaw.


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Hilgers won the River Place Challenge in April, one of his six wins on the Golf Channel Am Tour this year.  


Once a 200-pound, scholarship football player and a big hitter off the tee, Hilgers is now the little guy in the group. In order to reduce the stress on his back, he cut his swing in half.

It means Hilgers is deadly accurate off the tee - any scramble team's dream - even if he's stuck hitting woods on most approach shots. He also gets around the course so fast it's tough to keep up.

"He's very steady," said Chris Phillips, from Houston, also a competitor in the Senior Hogan Flight. "He's a great competitor. He very rarely leaves the fairway and is always around the greens."

After back-to-back 77s at Talking Stick's North and South courses, Hilgers shot an 85 on the Talon course at Grayhawk, which left him tied for ninth and eight off the lead. He hadn't played 18 holes three days in a row since he was diagnosed.

"If I have to crawl through 18 to finish," he said after his third round. "I'm going to finish this off." That he did, closing with an 84 at Grayhawk's Raptor course.

Hilger's persistence hasn't been lost on one of the friends he met on the local Texas tour, a former high school athletic director in the Houston area, L.P. Jones. The two were paired together at a local event in Round Rock, and Jones was so blown away by Hilgers' determination he wrote him a letter afterward.

"The physical pain he's had to deal with," Jones said, "the loss of flexibility, muscle deterioration - it's just amazing. He's a heck of an athlete."

In addition to Hilgers' strong play this year, his nationals highlights have been meeting David Feherty, and running into a lot of the folks he's played with throughout the year in Texas.

"I've met some of the highest quality people I've ever met," Hilgers said of his year on the Texas Am Tour. "They almost spoil me out here, even though we're competing against one another. I just love these guys."


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Hilgers and Michael Walker watch Kevin Smith putt out during Round 3 of the Golf Channel Am Tour Senior National Championship.


Hilgers says he plans on playing golf until it's not fun anymore, which, when you watch him in action, doesn't seem like anytime soon. But he keeps a full schedule beyond the golf course already. He speaks with church groups about preparing for life with cancer, and spends as much time as he can with friends and family. 

Also, he's in the middle of starting up a new venison ministry, which prompts Hill Country ranchers to donate excess game meat to a processing plant in Kerrville to feed the homeless.

It won't just be his fellow golfers who are inspired by Hilgers' indomitable spirit.

"[Hilgers] energizes you," said Phillips, a melanoma survivor himself. "It's very clear talking to John over the last year or two, his tremendous energy, a lust for life. He's using his time to the maximum."

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 12:20 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Saturday, Day 3 (Times ET)

4:30-7AM (Watch): Sunny skies and birdies were on the menu early in Round 3, as Justin Rose made his way around Carnoustie in 64 strokes. Click here or on the image below to watch.


Friday, Day 2 (Times ET)

8:20AM-3PM (Watch): As the skies cleared on Friday afternoon, defending champion Jordan Spieth made a run to try and regain the claret jug. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

1:30-8:20AM (Watch): On a rainy Friday morning at Carnoustie, Rory McIlroy shot 69 to reach 4 under, while Zach Johnson fired a 67 for the early lead. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Brooks Koepka, Ian Poulter and Cameron Smith.


Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 21, 2018, 12:15 pm

Tiger Woods, in search of his 15th career major championship title, started the weekend six off the lead at Carnoustie. We're tracking him in Round 3 of The Open.


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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 8:30 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.