To Live and Love

By Jay CoffinSeptember 28, 2010, 1:18 am

National ChampionshipST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The golf course is Jon Vanpoucke’s sanctuary, but Lori Vida is his life.

Sit with the former Marine for just a moment and it’s clear that he loves the game. But it’s more apparent that his wife is the reason he wakes up in the morning.

The 35-year-old, who served time overseas in the Gulf War, has both arms tattooed with reminders of Lori, especially the left arm where there is a striking image of his wife with rosary beads next to her. His left ring finger doesn’t have a wedding band, but it simply says “LORI.”

If ever anyone was dealt a difficult hand in life, it’s Lori Vida, although you’ll find a tough time getting her or anyone in her family to complain about the situation. In a nutshell, the 40-year-old who once was a famous hair model, a real mover and shaker in the San Diego area, is sick.

She has hepatitis C, stage 4 cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer and is a diabetic. She takes 21 pills a day (14 in the morning, seven in the evening) and checks her blood sugar at least three times a day.

“To be hit with all of this at once is difficult, but she’s a fighter, always has been,” Vanpoucke said Monday in the clubhouse of St. Johns Golf & Country Club after shooting 88 in the second round of the Golf Channel Amateur Tour National Championship. Vanpoucke shot 90 Sunday in the first round at World Golf Village and is playing in the Palmer Flight for handicaps between 4-7.9.

There are so many different legs to this story that it’s difficult to know where to begin.

The couple met six years ago in a La Jolla, Calif., bar and hit it off right away. Vanpoucke sensed that he had met this woman before and it hit him. She was the same girl who, 17 years prior, kicked him and his buddies out of their beach party because they were too young and not part of the “in” crowd. They married a year after they met.

Over the next four years, Vanpoucke found himself in the emergency room more than 15 times because Lori was ill and would often vomit blood. What they discovered what that Lori was born with the hepatitis C virus because her mother, Margaret, needed a blood transfusion nearly 50 years prior when she was in a severe car accident with a drunk driver. Her mother had contracted hepatitis C and it was passed onto Lori at birth.

It wasn’t much longer until Lori Vida was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver.

So Vanpoucke and Vida visited a San Diego-area Scripps Clinic for specialized care. She was told that she wouldn’t live much longer than another five years.

The couple decided to live life to its fullest. Vanpoucke left his job and they took trips around the world, their favorite place being Portugal where they wanted to buy property and live. But the second time they visited Portugal Lori got sick and was in a hospital for a month.

When they returned to the states, Vanpoucke did more research and decided that the best treatment his wife could receive would be at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. So, two years ago, the two lifelong San Diego natives moved to a place they never thought they’d live.

“It was a drastic change,” Vanpoucke said.

Earlier this year was when Vida was told she was a type 2 diabetic and five months ago physicians found a pea-sized cancerous spot on her liver. They told her to return three months later for another cancer checkup and this time, it had grown to the size of a quarter.

There is hope and there is a plan. The Marine and his bride would have it no other way.

Beginning Oct. 6, Vida will enter an intense two-week testing program at the Mayo Clinic which will essentially ensure that she moves to the top of the liver transplant list. Vanpoucke has been told that the latest they could expect the liver transplant would be March 2011. The earliest would be at the beginning of the year.

“We’re not going to conquer it all when the transplant happens,” Vanpoucke says. “But at least we’ll be halfway through the battle.”

Seeing some of the finances whittle away, Vanpoucke now works part-time at a local Home Depot and works late Monday-Friday evening so he can still have each day to spend with his wife and take her to her numerous appointments.

Earlier this year was when Vanpoucke got the golf bug again. He has played golf since he was 4-years-old and was once a teaching professional who played to a scratch handicap, but time off to care for his wife had him rusty. He’s far from a scratch golfer now but made a deal with Lori that he’ll take one day a week to practice and play golf. So he joined the Twin Cities Amateur Tour this summer and qualified for the National Championship this week in Florida.

Lori Vida is in San Diego visiting with her father and her oldest brother this week, which pleases Vanpoucke knowing that his “princess” is being cared for. At first he was happy that she didn’t make the trip with him to Florida, but now, he’s a tad sad because she’s all he thinks about.

“I’m a blessed to be able to take care of a beautiful woman, but when I get out to the golf course it’s my passion and it’s where I can be who I am,” Vanpoucke said. “Golf brings me great balance in my life.”

Great balance in a life that has been quite a rollercoaster the past six years.

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Watch: Tiger 'drops mic' in long drive contest

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 20, 2018, 12:44 am

Tiger Woods is in Las Vegas this weekend for the 20th annual Tiger Jam charity event that benefits his foundation.

During the tournament on Saturday afternoon, Woods challenged World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a long drive contest.


A post shared by TROY MULLINS (@trojangoddess) on May 19, 2018 at 1:25pm PDT

Safe to say it looks like Tiger won.

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Sunday showdown for Wise, Leishman at Nelson

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 11:40 pm

DALLAS – While the swirling Texas winds may still have their say, the AT&T Byron Nelson is shaping up to be a two-horse race.

With a four-shot gulf between them and their closest pursuers, co-leaders Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise both stepped up to the microphone and insisted the tournament was far from over. That it wouldn’t revert to a match-play situation, even though the two men didn’t face much pressure from the pack down the stretch of the third round and have clearly distanced themselves as the best in the field through 54 holes.

But outside of an outlier scenario or a rogue tornado sweeping across Trinity Forest Golf Club, one of the two will leave with trophy in hand tomorrow night.

That’s in part because of their stellar play to this point, but it’s also a byproduct of the tournament’s new and unconventional layout: at Trinity Forest, big numbers are hard to find.

Even with the winds picking up during the third round and providing the sternest challenge yet, the field combined for only 16 scores of double bogey, and nothing worse than that.

Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

There’s irony in a course called Trinity Forest offering a tree-less test, sure, but there are also no water hazards in play here. For the most part, players have been maxing out with bogey – and Leishman and Wise have combined for only six of those so far this week.

If someone from the chase pack is going to catch them, the two sharing the pole position aren’t going to do them any favors.

“I don’t really want to give them a chance,” Leishman said. “I’d love to go out and shoot a low one and make Aaron have to shoot a good score tomorrow to beat me, which, I fully expect him to shoot a good score.”

While Leishman has been somewhat of a late bloomer on the PGA Tour, with only one win across his first eight seasons, he now has a golden opportunity to add a third trophy in the last 14 months. He has felt right at home on a sprawling layout that reminds him of a few back in his native Australia, and he’s part of a Down Under invasion on a leaderboard that also includes Matt Jones (-13) and Adam Scott (-9).

While Wise briefly held sole possession of the lead, Leishman has seemingly held an iron grip on the top spot since opening his week with a blistering 61.

“Before last year, I was a pretty slow starter. I always got off to a slow start Thursday, or I’d be fighting to make the cut and have a good weekend to slide into the top 10,” Leishman said. “Getting into that round straight away on the first tee rather than the ninth green or something, which sounds like a really basic thing, but it’s something I didn’t do very well until last year.”

But as Leishman acknowledged, he likely can’t count on a stumble from Wise to help finish off a wire-to-wire victory. As the youngest player to make the cut this week, Wise is facing a challenge of taking down a top-ranked Aussie for the second time in as many starts.

While he came up short at the Wells Fargo Championship, tying for second behind Jason Day, he remains supremely confident that he can put those hard-earned lessons to use this time around.

“I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Wise said. “It will obviously be a huge day for me. I feel like having one go at it already, I’m a little more confident going into it this time.”

Even among the landscape of the Tour’s promising next wave, Wise stands out as a particularly young gun. Still only 21, he could feasibly be heading to Karsten Creek next week with his Oregon Duck teammates to close out his senior season with another NCAA championship appearance.

But Wise turned pro after winning the NCAA individual title as a sophomore, and he steadily worked his way through the professional ranks: first a win on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, then one last summer on the Tour.

Now he’s poised to turn what he described as a “lackluster” season before his Quail Hollow runner-up into one that defies even his own expectations.

“Absolutely, I am way ahead of the curve. It’s pretty hard to do what I’ve done at such a young age. Only a few have done it,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”

An unpredictable Coore-Crenshaw layout will have one more day to star, and outside of Wise the top six names on the leaderboard have at least one Tour win to their credit. But after the two men traded punches on a firm and fast afternoon, it sure feels like the final round is shaping up to offer more of the same.

For Leishman, it’s a chance to add another notch to some quickly expanding credentials; for Wise, it’s an opportunity to win on the one level he has yet to do so.

“It’s golf, at the end of the day. If you play better than everyone else, you’re going to win,” Wise said. “That’s why I play it. That’s why I love this sport, and tomorrow is nothing different.”

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5 thoughts from NCAA Women's Championship Day 2

By Ryan LavnerMay 19, 2018, 11:35 pm

The field is almost halfway through stroke-play qualifying at the NCAA Women’s Championship. Here are some thoughts on the first two days at Karsten Creek:

1. UCLA is on a mission. Just a year ago, the Bruins were headed home from regionals after becoming the first No. 1 seed that failed to advance out of the qualifying tournament. This year, with the core of the team still mostly intact, the Bruins have opened up a five-shot lead on top-ranked Alabama and a comfortable 16-shot cushion over Southern Cal in third place. On one of the most difficult college courses in the country, UCLA has received contributions from all four of its usual counters – standout Lilia Vu shot 68 on Saturday, while Mariel Galdiano posted a 69. Freshman Patty Tavatanakit and junior Bethany Wu also broke par. This is a strong, deep lineup that will pose issues for teams not just in stroke-play qualifying, but also the head-to-head, match-play bracket.

2. What happened to Arkansas? Riding high off their first SEC Championship and a dominant regional performance, the Razorbacks were considered one of the top threats to win the national title. But entering Sunday’s third round of stroke play, they need to hold it together just to ensure they make the top-15 cut. Arkansas is 32 over par through two rounds. The Razorbacks had shot in the 300s just once this season in the play-five, count-four format. Here at Karsten Creek, they’ve now done so in consecutive rounds.

3. The Player of the Year race is heating up. With a decent showing at nationals, Arkansas’ Maria Fassi should have been able to wrap up the Annika Award, given annually to the top player in the country. She has six individual titles, plays a difficult schedule and is well-liked among her peers. But through two rounds she’s a whopping 15 over par while spraying it all over the map. If the Razorbacks don’t survive the 54-hole cut, neither will Fassi. That’d open the door for another player to steal the votes, whether it’s UCLA’s Vu or Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho. There’s a lot still to be decided.

4. Stanford has steadied itself. One of the biggest surprises on Day 1 was the horrendous start by the Cardinal, one of just two teams to advance to match play each of the three years it’s been used to determine a national champion. They were 19 over for their first nine holes Friday, but instead of a blowup round that cost them a shot at the title, they’ve found a way to hang tough. Stanford has been just 4 over par over its last 27 holes. Andrea Lee made only one bogey during her second-round 69, Albane Valenzuela eagled the 18th hole for a 73 and senior leader Shannon Aubert – who has been a part of each postseason push – carded a 74. And so, even with its early struggles, coach Anne Walker once again has Stanford in position to reach match play.

5. Karsten Creek is identifying the best teams. The top teams in the country want a difficult host venue for NCAAs – it helps separate the field and draws an unmistakable line between the contenders and pretenders. Only one team (UCLA) is under par after 36 holes. Fewer than a dozen players are under par individually. The dearth of low scores might not be the greatest advertisement for how talented these players are, but the cream has still risen to the top so far: Five top-10 teams currently sit inside the top 7 on the leaderboard (and that doesn’t even include last year’s NCAA runner-up Northwestern). This is all any coach wants, even if the scores aren’t pretty.

Quick hits: Cheyenne Knight, part of Alabama’s vaunted 1-2-3 punch along with Lauren Stephenson and Kristen Gillman, shot rounds of 70-69 to figure in the mix for individual honors. The junior will turn pro after nationals. …  Arizona’s Bianca Pagdanganan made a hole-in-one on the 11th hole Saturday en route to a 68 that tied the low round of the day. She’s at 5-under 139, same as Knight. ... Defending champion Arizona State, which lost star Linnea Strom to the pro ranks at the halfway point of the season, is 35 over par after two rounds. … Play was delayed for nearly an hour and a half Saturday because of inclement weather.

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Wise (21) makes Leishman (34) feel a little old

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 10:55 pm

DALLAS – With the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson likely to take on a match-play feel, Marc Leishman likes his chances to close out another win – even if his opponent makes him feel a little old.

Leishman, 34, shares the lead at Trinity Forest Golf Club with 21-year-old Aaron Wise, who was the youngest player to make the cut at the tournament’s new venue. The two men will start the final round at 17 under, four shots clear of their next-closest pursuers.

Leishman played the third round alongside Wise and Brian Gay, and he originally didn’t realize just how fresh-faced his fellow co-leader is.

Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

“He’s a solid player for, I heard this morning he’s only 21. I didn’t realize that,” Leishman said. “I guess I was in high school before he was born, so that’s – I don’t know. You hear guys talk about that all the time but I’ve never said that, I think. Yeah, he’s a good player.”

Wise won the 2016 NCAA individual title while at Oregon, and he opted to turn pro after his sophomore season. While he could have been capping his senior season with a return to the NCAAs next week, Wise is pleased with the career choice and remains eager for a chance to close out his first career PGA Tour win against a seasoned veteran.

“I feel like I’m in a great spot for tomorrow,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”