Sports: DEAN JUIPE: Golfer's battle with ALS is both sad, courageous

Copyright テつゥ 2002
Scripps Howard News Service
SportServer's Golf Coverage
Special Report: U.S. Open Coverage

The Las Vegas Sun

(June 25, 2002 2:43 p.m. EDT) - It was something of a sad weekend in sports, and not only because of the sudden death of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile or my being on the wrong side in predicting the outcome of the Erik Morales vs. Marco Antonio Barrera fight.
I'm really more touched by what's happening to Jeff Julian.
When Julian tapped in for a par to complete his second round in the Greater Hartford Open, his career as a PGA Tour player likely came to an end. He shot 71-76 and missed the cut, which would be relatively inconsequential if not for the fact he got into the field on his seventh - and final - sponsor's exemption of the year.
Julian, 40, is dying of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, and his days are clearly numbered. With no known cure in sight, Julian and his family realize the end of his life will be here within a fairly short time.
Gehrig was 35 when he took himself out of the New York Yankees' lineup eight games into the 1939 season and after having played 2,130 straight. Two years later, he was dead of a disease that has no known cause and afflicts one in every 100,000 Americans.
Julian was told he had the disease last October and the diagnosis came after a summer in which he had begun to slur his speech, had trouble swallowing and had a persistent pain in his neck. Those who suffer from ALS lose the ability to physically carry out what their mind is trying to tell their body to do, and medical science remains baffled at the complexities.
What makes Julian all the more sympathetic of a figure is that he gamely tried to continue his pro golfing career, even though he was routinely fatigued. Now he has maxed out his seven exemptions and it's more likely than not that he has played his final PGA tournament.
He tried to make it through sectional qualifying for the recent U.S. Open and paid his entrance fee despite knowing he would have to play 36 holes in one day. He made it through 27 before fatigue forced him to withdraw.
He failed to make the cut in any of his seven PGA events this season and made only six of 22 cuts last year, ranking No. 211 on the final money list with $55,132; for his career on the tour he made only 15 of 55 cuts and never finished higher in an event than 16th (at the Buick Classic in 1996). But it's not like he couldn't play, as shown by a 1997 victory on the Nike Tour and his repeated successes at regaining his tour card during Q-School tournaments.
His wife, Kimberly, frequently caddied for him and remains a tremendous source of strength for him, as she demonstrated during a TV interview that aired Saturday. With her husband's speech distorted and sometimes difficult to follow, she filled in the gaps and did so in an encouraging manner in spite of the sadness of the situation.
Their insurance through the tour expires in April and a fund-raising tournament - with several PGA Tour players participating - is being held today in Julian's native Vermont in an attempt not only to raise money but awareness of this strange disease.
It takes a great deal of fortitude to do what Jeff and Kimberly Julian have done this year, carrying on in public with a debilitating illness that would have others in constant retreat. Theirs is a courage that is very real, very dear to see from any distance.