FSU's Lebioda battles Crohn’s disease like a champ

By Ryan LavnerMay 15, 2015, 1:05 pm

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – After putting out on the ninth green Thursday at Finley Golf Course, Hank Lebioda sprinted toward the nearest men’s bathroom, about 150 yards away. This wasn’t totally uncommon. He charts on-course restrooms as if they were tricky green complexes.

The Florida State junior has been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract that affects about 1.4 million Americans. He has the condition mostly under control now, thanks to medication and weekly injections that he administers himself, but it wasn’t too long ago that the 21-year-old faced the prospect of shelving his golf career.

Lebioda was a top-five recruit coming out of high school, but his body began to betray him even before he arrived on campus in fall 2012. The previous spring, he contracted salmonella and dealt with the effects for months – even during his senior prom. As his buddies raged by the beach, Lebioda spent the after-party in bed. A few days later, he labored through the Sage Valley Invitational, the premier junior golf event in the country, and was so ill that the only thing he could keep down was Pedialyte.

That summer, he battled irritable bowel syndrome and complained of frequent stomachaches and diarrhea. At times, the cramps on the course were so intense that he’d drop to one knee and hope the rush of pain would subside.

“The hard thing was that Hank is like any great competitor,” says Seminoles coach Trey Jones. “He doesn’t want any sympathy. He doesn’t want anybody to feel bad for him. He internalized a lot of it, and he wasn’t that transparent about everything going on with him.”

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But he couldn’t hide later that year at the South Beach Amateur. Despite staying in a swanky hotel in Miami, eating the finest meals and riding a cart during competition, the fat and muscle melted off his body at an alarming rate. In all, he lost 20 pounds in four days.  

Somehow, Lebioda still finished second, but when he returned home for Christmas break, he said, “my parents didn’t even recognize me.” He spent the next week and a half in bed.

Hank’s father, David, specializes in gastroenterology and immediately sensed something was amiss. After scheduling the first of three colonoscopies, Lebioda took a laxative to flush out his system, but it didn’t work. The next morning, at 3 a.m., he rolled around on the floor, writhing in pain.

Tests confirmed that he had bowel obstruction and mild-to-severe Crohn’s. The connector between the small and large intestine was inflamed, which was why he was in such severe pain but unable to pass anything through. An abscess had formed there, too. 

Hopped up on steroids, antibiotics, painkillers and anti-inflammatories – “you name it, I was on it” – the only option seemed to be surgery, which would require three months of bed rest. Such a long layoff would not only force him to skip the spring semester of school, but it also prompted a few quiet and somber discussions with his father about what a future without golf might look like.

“The outlook was grim,” David says, shaking his head.

But under the care of his father and his six partners, Lebioda responded well to the aggressive treatment and was discharged from the hospital after a week. His doctors prescribed a new medicine called Humira, which called for Lebioda to pinch the skin on either side of his belly button and give himself four 10-second shots, once a week, with a device that looked like a giant BIC highlighter.

“I’m petrified of needles,” he says, but he’s gotten so used to the procedure that he recently guided one of his father’s patients through the process while in the middle of a practice round.  

Still, his weight remained a significant issue – he was down to 140 pounds, with no muscle, no fat and no energy, after being bedridden for three weeks. Worse than the shots, Lebioda soon found out the hard way that his diet was about to change completely. No milk. No fried foods. No salad. No acidic foods. No caffeine. Heck, he couldn’t even sleep on his stomach anymore.

“The whole situation made me realize that I need to grow up and manage myself better,” he said.

After a few weeks at home, he was well enough to at least consider a return to Florida State. The school’s nutritionist and chef collaborated on a strict meal plan, and any time Lebioda wanted a bite to eat he simply texted the chef. Because he was still too weak to lift, run or train with his teammates, he worked with the athletic trainer on the underwater treadmill to improve his agility.  

Within three or four weeks, he returned to hitting balls. Less than a month later, he qualified for the team’s first spring tournament, the Gator Invitational, but head coach Trey Jones insisted that he use a push cart in competition. Lebioda stopped at every restroom during his round and finished 12th that week, the beginning of an improbable run that led to him being named the ACC Freshman of the Year.

“Being a gastroenterologist, you know too much and you know how these things are supposed to end,” David Lebioda says. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and this is probably the best outcome I’ve ever seen with someone who started out as bad as he had.”

College kids aren’t supposed to grow up this fast.

After Hank’s high school graduation, his grandfather moved into the family’s home in Winter Springs, Fla., just north of Orlando. He was 91 years old, fading fast, with signs of dementia, but Hank took personal responsibility for him. Sometimes, he’d go out at midnight just to grab a carton of strawberry ice cream, and they’d sit together on the couch, two old men, watching Cubs games on WGN.

Jones jokes that Lebioda has “the diet of an old man,” because they basically have to eat the same foods.

For a while, Lebioda slammed three or four Ensure shakes a day. He’s learned how to eat salmon and boneless chicken 20 different ways. A typical dinner consists of a turkey sandwich on white bread, with no mayo or cheese. On the course this week, he’s nibbling on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and packs of fruit snacks. Standing 5 feet, 11 inches, he’s now up to 180 pounds, or about 40 more than his worst state.    

More than anything, he has learned what to avoid. If he drinks a few beers – never more than two or three – he knows he’s going to pay for it with cramps and diarrhea. Coffee with creamer never ends well. Scarf down a cheeseburger or any kind of red meat, and he’s pretty much doomed to go find a bathroom.

“But as much as everyone says, ‘I don’t know how you do it,’ my life has simplified a lot,” Hank says. “I cut out all the extraneous events that I didn’t need. Nothing was hanging over my head anymore.”

He’s back in control of his future.

Lebioda has captained the team each of the past two seasons. He’s served as the Seminoles’ Student Athletic Council representative. He’s on track to graduate in December – five months early – with a degree in finance.

And the best part? With his medical condition steadily improving, his golf game has never been better.

After a solid sophomore campaign, Lebioda has taken his game to new heights this season, with seven top-10s, a trio of runner-up finishes and a top-15 national ranking. Part of that improvement can be attributed to his time spent with swing coach Scott Hamilton, with whom he began working last summer. For years Lebioda played a “high school hook” – a push draw that every prep star hits because it maximizes distance. The smooth-swinging left-hander has turned that shot into a controlled cut that keeps the ball in play, and a sharper wedge game has become his greatest strength.  

“Scott has really helped me simplify my game,” he said. “The only thing I have to worry about now is scoring.”

Entering this week’s NCAA regionals, Lebioda’s 70.69 average is the second-best on the team, only a few ticks below standout sophomore Jack Maguire (70.63). Together, they’ve paced Florida State to six wins and the No. 1 ranking in the country.

But there are still a few awkward moments.

He knows the location of every bathroom on the course, so on Thursday, a few seconds before he had darted toward the hut about 150 yards away, he hopped into a cart with a rules official and gave him a nod, like, Hey, let’s roll. FSU has contacted both local and national officials and cleared Lebioda to take a ride to the restroom whenever he needs it because of his medical condition. This particular rules official hadn’t yet gotten the memo, so he denied the request and Lebioda took off running, unable to wait any longer. A few minutes later, the official spun around, picked him up and apologized profusely for the misunderstanding.

“It comes furiously and you can’t wait like I did,” Lebioda shrugged.

But if that’s the extent of his troubles, well, he’ll take it. This is about the best-case scenario for a guy who two years ago thought a career in golf was a long shot.

“He has a mission now,” David Lebioda says. “He enjoys his health, but he knows that success is fleeting and can be taken away at any time. He’s savoring the life he has.” 

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

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Cut Line: Johnny's exit, Tiger's fatigue

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.

Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.

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S.Y. Kim leads Kang, A. Jutanugarn in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:24 am

SHANGHAI  -- Sei Young Kim led the LPGA Shanghai by one stroke at the halfway point after shooting a 5-under-par 67 in the second round on Friday.

Kim made six birdies, including four straight from the sixth hole, to move to a 10-under 134 total. Her only setback was a bogey on the par-4 15th.

Kim struggled in the first half of the year, but is finishing it strong. She won her seventh career title in July at the Thornberry Creek Classic, was tied for fourth at the Women's British Open, and last month was runner-up at the Evian Championship.

''I made huge big par putts on 10, 11, 12,'' Kim said on Friday. ''I'm very happy with today's play.''

Danielle Kang (68) and overnight leader Ariya Jutanugarn (69) were one shot back.

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

''I like attention. I like being in the final group. I like having crowds,'' Kang said. ''It's fun. You work hard to be in the final groups and work hard to be in the hunt and be the leader and chasing the leaders. That's why we play.''

She led into the last round at the Hana Bank Championship last week and finished tied for third.

Brittany Altomare had six birdies in a bogey-free round of 66, and was tied for fourth with Bronte Law (68) and Brittany Lincicome (68).

Angel Lin eagled the par-5 17th and finished with the day's lowest score of 65, which also included six birdies and a lone bogey.

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'Caveman golf' puts Koepka one back at CJ Cup

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:12 am

JEJU ISLAND, South Korea – Brooks Koepka, recently named the PGA Tour Player of the Year, gave himself the perfect opportunity to become the No. 1 player in the world when he shot a 7-under par 65 to move to within one shot of the lead in the CJ Cup on Friday.

At the Nine Bridges course, the three-time major champion made an eagle on his closing hole to finish on 8-under par 136 after two rounds, just one stroke behind Scott Piercy, who was bogey-free in matching Koepka's 65.

With the wind subsiding and the course playing much easier than on the opening day when the scoring average was 73.26, 44 players – more than half the field of 78 – had under-par rounds.

Overnight leader Chez Reavie added a 70 to his opening-round 68 to sit in third place at 138, three behind Piercy. Sweden's Alex Noren was the other player in with a 65, which moved him into a tie for fourth place alongside Ian Poulter (69), four out of the lead.

The best round of the day was a 64 by Brian Harman, who was tied for sixth and five behind Piercy.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

The 28-year-old Koepka will move to the top of the world rankings when they are announced on Monday if he wins the tournament.

Thomas, playing alongside Koepka, matched Koepka's eagle on the last, but that was only for a 70 and he is tied for 22nd place at 1 under.

Koepka's only bogey was on the par-5 ninth hole, where he hit a wayward tee shot. But he was otherwise pleased with the state of his ''caveman golf.''

''I feel like my game is in a good spot. I feel like the way I played today, if I can carry that momentum into Saturday and Sunday, it will be fun,'' Koepka, winner of the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, said.

''My game is pretty simple. I guess you can call it like caveman golf – you see the ball, hit the ball and go find it again. You're not going to see any emotion just because I'm so focused, but I'm enjoying it.''

Piercy, who has fallen to No. 252 in the world ranking despite winning the Zurich Classic earlier this year with Billy Horschel – there are no world ranking points for a team event – was rarely out of position in a round in which he found 13 of 14 fairways off the tee and reached 16 greens in regulation.

''Obviously, the wind was down a little bit and from a little bit different direction, so 10 miles an hour wind versus 20s is quite a big difference,'' said Piercy, who is looking for his first individual PGA Tour win since the Barbasol Championship in July 2015.

''It was a good day. Hit a couple close and then my putter showed up and made some putts of some pretty good length.''

Australia's Marc Leishman, winner last week at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, shot a 71 and was seven behind. Paul Casey's 73 included a hole-in-one on the par-3 seventh hole and the Englishman is nine behind Piercy.