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American star in Queenstown as he battles back

9 March 2017

One of the golfing stars in action this week is American Heath Slocum who is using his time in New Zealand as he recovers from a debilitating disease.

Photo: photosport.nz

 


Slocum has enjoyed seven professional wins including four on the PGA Tour, but the 43-year-old suffers from ulcerative colitis which has twice seen him forced to take significant breaks from the game. While he will carry the illness with him for the rest of his life, Slocum is unwavering in his belief that given good health, he has the game to return to the top.

He was born to play golf with his father a successful club professional in rural Louisiana and emerged in high school, with close friend and PGA Professional Boo Weekley, going on to become a three-time All-American for South Alabama University.

From there he gained entry into the Nike Tour (now Web.com), but in the back half of the year he knew something was wrong.

The prognosis was an inflammation of the colon. Slocum would visit the toilet up to 40 times a day. He lost 12kgs off his already slight 67kg frame. He couldn’t eat, and was given intravenous injections twice a week to keep him alive. At his worst he once slept for two days while visiting his father, who was gravely concerned for his son. This battle continued for 1998 and halfway through 1999.

“I would basically live in the bathroom. Then one day I woke up and did not have to go to the toilet. It was the same next day.”

A further year on, Slocum had recovered full health and wellness.

”When I recovered it was with a renewed vigour for golf. I practiced non-stop. I was not negative at all. I remained really positive and with a great attitude.”

He made it on to the then-Nationwide Tour in 2001, winning three times and later that year advanced to the PGA Tour. For the next 12 years he remained on the PGA Tour, winning at the Chrysler Classic in 2004, the Barclays in 2009 and the McGladrey Classic in 2010. He qualified for the players for the first six years straight in the FEDEx Cup and pushed into the world’s top 50.

Then in 2014 his health issues arose again, but rather than rest, he decided to fight his way through it.

“I was hard-headed but I should have taken time out. I was ill and nowhere near healthy enough to go up against the best players in the world. I had stomach cramps, and it hurt.”

He tried to play on as his playing privileges dried up, and he was forced to take time out.

Slocum has now recovered his health yet again and able to practice and play. He jumped at the opportunity to venture to New Zealand for the first time. The American had heard much about Queenstown but has been blown away at the beauty of the place and the people.

He enjoyed his best return this year with a five-under 67 at Millbrook Resort in the first round.

 

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