HONOLULU – Lucky.
The word hangs in the air for an awkward moment before the conversation moves forward.
Morgan Hoffmann is a lot of things – professional golfer, pilot, athlete, and (if the gallery following his group on Thursday at the Sony Open was any indication) handsome. Like Hollywood handsome.
So as the 28-year-old explains his sleep habits, the idea that he's lucky certainly applies.
“I have to sleep for eight hours every day. That’s my optimal sleep range,” he explains. “I can fall asleep anywhere. I’m lucky.”
But given what’s transpired the last few months, it’s an interesting, even odd, choice of words. Hoffmann revealed in an emotional essay on The Players’ Tribune in early December that he had muscular dystrophy. His right pectoral muscle is completely deteriorated, and his left pectoral is starting to deteriorate. There is no cure for muscular dystrophy.
So when Hoffmann offers an easy smile and a line like, “I’m lucky,” it normally leads to a tough follow-up question. But even though his plight is less than ideal, know that Hoffmann has come by his optimism honestly.
Hoffmann first started to feel the affects of muscular dystrophy in his right pectoral muscle in 2011, but it took five years and some 25 doctors to finally receive a diagnosis.
It was hard, particularly for a player who lists his interests as “anything active, sports, outdoors,” to come to grips with such a devastating disease, but he did.
“I have a lot of energy. I’m eating the right things and feel great getting up in the morning,” he smiles. “Just a couple of muscles keep atrophying, which is aggravating, but I’m getting stronger in the places I have muscles still. I think I’m on the right path.”
Hoffmann, who is entering his sixth season on the Tour this year, believes that he can make a difference with the way he lives his life. By eating better, working out, meditating and getting those eight hours of sleep, he can help stem the damage caused by muscular dystrophy.
He also believes he can help others live better lives.
Many people talk about making a difference, but Hoffmann is doing it, and his plan goes well beyond bringing more attention to muscular dystrophy.
“I think I can help a lot of people, not just for awareness of muscular dystrophy, but kind of guide people in a more healthy way of living,” Hoffmann says. “People are just so uneducated about what is going in their bodies, and it’s pretty unfortunate the way Americans are eating right now. I really believe you can change you physiology if you eat right and you know what you’re putting in your body.”
To that end, Hoffmann hopes to build what he calls a “wellness center,” a kind of health superstore that will focus on the body and the mind.
The wheels are already turning for Hoffmann and his wellness center. In August, the week before The Northern Trust kicks off the FedExCup playoffs, he has organized a pro-am tournament to help raise money.
The event will be played at Arcola Country Club in Paramus, N.J., which is where Hoffmann grew up and is just about a mile form Ridgewood Country Club, site of this year’s first playoff stop.
“The turnout and response already has been incredible,” he says. “It’s going to be pretty amazing what will happen over the next few months.”
Hoffmann says many of the members at Arcola have already committed to playing the event - that’s 44 teams at $12,000 a group - and that he’s already been approached by many Tour players who want to volunteer to play in the event.
In many ways, the wellness center is a byproduct of the life Hoffmann has chosen in the wake of his diagnosis. Each morning, he wakes to take a variety of “high-dose” vitamins to keep his blood levels at the correct level along with a regimen of amino acids and organic honey.
Before he headed out for his round on Thursday at Waialae Country Club, where he opened with a 1-under 69, there was 30 minutes in the gym to warm up, and after his round it was back to the gym for more physical therapy.
Hoffmann doesn’t know if he can slow the onset of muscular dystrophy, but he’s determined to try by any means necessary. That is how the idea of a wellness center was born.
“My vision is having a one-stop shop. You can go in and get a nutritionist, get a therapist, you can check the way your body functions, we are going to have blood testing,” he says. “We’ll have a trainer, a doctor. You go in and get your entire body looked at from inside to out. We’ll put you on a diet, we’ll talk about sleep, meditation, everything.”
Hoffmann’s eyes light up as he explains his grand plans and the pieces that continue to fall into place. There’s no sadness, no regret, no edge to suggest he’s still coming to terms with his plight - just an unwavering belief that he can make a difference.
“If I can just touch a couple of kids that have [MD], that have been put down and don’t think they can achieve their dreams, I just want to show them I can still play and live my dream and hopefully reach my goals,” he smiles.