2006: Roller-coaster ride in Mayfair’s return

Medinah, Ill.

Billy Mayfair went from being happy to be here, to thinking about leaving, to in contention, to out of gas, to back in the pack. Add that all up and you get one of the more compelling stories of this or any other golf tournament.

Mayfair, 40, teed off in the 88th PGA Championship at Medinah two weeks after undergoing surgery to remove his cancerous right testicle. The operation came five days after Mayfair discovered a lump the “size of two Titleist golf balls,” and four days after a radiologist in Flint, Mich., site of the Buick Open, told him he had cancer.

“I was really scared,” Mayfair said.

Doctors gave Mayfair a “clean bill of health” after the surgery back home in Scottsdale, Ariz., but he has a decision to make in coming months: Have tests every couple of months for five years, or undergo two weeks of radiation treatment and then checkups only once or twice per year. In the meantime, he’ll play five or six more tournaments in 2006.

The decision to play the PGA, though, wasn’t difficult. He said doctors encouraged it, to his surprise.

It was his first tournament in about a month. The first driver he hit after the operation was on PGA Tuesday.

“Two weeks ago if you would have told me I was going to be here, I would have never believed it,” Mayfair said. “I’m thrilled to be here.”

Mayfair clearly spoke like someone with a newfound outlook. He said waking up was the highlight of his day. He talked about playing golf as if it were a privilege. He said he’d be disappointed in himself if golf made him mad.

“This (cancer) puts everything in perspective real fast,” he said.

Mayfair not only played, he contended for two days, opening with a pair of 69s. Mayfair was so emotional that he nearly cried on the course on opening day. He said he was touched by the gallery’s support.

If his ordeal wasn’t bad enough, Mayfair learned the night before the first round that his mother had suffered a heart attack and stroke “out of the blue.” He said he thought about leaving to be with her, but decided there was nothing he could do after talking with her doctor.

He stayed, ran out of stamina and faded to 73-76 on the weekend, finishing in a tie for 37th.

“I’m pretty beat up,” he said.

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