2001: Senior Open - Playing in Open a big victory for cancer survivor

By Richard Mudry

Peabody, Mass.

Robin McCool pulled on the white screen door and then pushed the heavy black door open.

He stepped onto the lush, dark green rug, turned to his left and walked down two flights of steps into the bowels of the Salem Country Club.

At the bottom of the stairs, he turned to his right and squeezed himself through the narrow doorway into one section of the spartan locker room where he plopped down on the bench.

On one side of his locker, the name plate read Dick McClean, a club pro from LaQuinta, Calif. On the other side was the inimitable Gary McCord.

Without much thought, McCool, a 50-year-old amateur from Saucon Valley Golf Club in Bethlehem, Pa., began cleaning out his locker. He was the only one in the room.

The 22nd U.S. Senior Open was over for him but the memories will last a lifetime.

Two months and five days after undergoing surgery for testicular cancer in Easton, Pa., and only 18 days after the last of 20 radiation treatments, McCool had quietly written a profile in courage over the fairways of Salem Country Club.

McCool shot rounds of 78-75–153 and missed the 36-hole cut. But golf had become his life blood again and for the Ping sales representative from the Philadelphia area that was a big victory as far as he was concerned.

“I was very, very pleased to be here,” said the 1-handicapper. “It was a dream come true.”

In April, McCool wondered whether he’d ever play golf again. He wondered what the future would hold and for how long it would do so.

“I found a bump,” said McCool. “I didn’t expect it to be anything serious.”

A urologist confirmed the lump and sent him to a specialist who gave him extensive testing and the diagnosis was testicular cancer. Surgery was scheduled on his right testicle.

“Three days after the surgery, the pathology report came back,” said McCool, still slightly drawn from the strength-sapping radiation treatments. “It was diagnosed as seminoma. Fortunately it was found early and doctors said it was most easily cured with radiation. The prognosis is good.”

But the life-threatening illness didn’t put on hold McCool’s plans to try to qualify for the 2001 U.S. Senior Open. It severely limited his chances of making the field, though.

“They did a wide area of radiation, including my abdominal area,” he said. “I was really sick for four weeks. It felt like I had the flu.”

McCool’s last treatment was June 11, four days before sectional qualifying at Tavistock Country Club in Haddonfield, N.J.

Without preparation, McCool tried to qualify for the Philadelphia Amateur but failed by only a shot. Two days of rest helped recharge his batteries for the U.S. Senior Open qualifier, a one-day, make-it-or-miss-it opportunity.

His June 15 U.S. Senior Open outing was different, however, as he shot 70 and led the field. Jim Masserio, the club pro at Aronimink in Pennsylvania, was the other qualifier.

“So I came here,” said McCool, “playing only two rounds of golf before the Senior Open.

“The main thing for me this week was the stamina issue. I felt not bad. I had to pace myself and feel my way around the golf course.”

In the overall spectrum of things, said McCool, the U.S. Senior Open was a memory to be treasured forever.

Golf is still a passion. But living life is a bigger one, he said.

“I thank God at how blessed I am to be healthy,” he said.

With that, he closed the locker door, walked up the stairs, and bid farewell to a life experience he hopes to have again.

Next time, he said, things will be better.

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