Caddie’s illness inspiring Simpson on Tour

William Kane (left) and Webb Simpson at The Memorial.

William Kane (left) and Webb Simpson at The Memorial.

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CROMWELL, Conn. – Put all the letters together and it spells something called multifocal motor neuropathy.

Now put your hands together and offer a prayer that doctors have helped William Kane get a good jump against all those letters. Certainly, the caddie for Webb Simpson has already said his fair share since he started showing signs of weakness – the physical kind, not of the spiritual variety, because that is stronger than ever.

“The big thing (about this ordeal) is, it makes me put my faith into action,” Kane said. “It definitely puts things in perspective.”

Well before he struggled to merely put the head cover back on Simpson’s driver and even before he started fighting simply to open bottles of water, Kane sensed he had a problem. He was shooting hoops with friends late last year and couldn’t even get a free throw to the basket, for goodness sakes.

“I didn’t have strength in either arm, from the elbow down,” Kane said. In addition, he was constantly tired. Even worse, “it started to spread, and my legs got a little weaker.”

photo

Webb Simpson and caddie Williams Kane during the third round of the Verizon Heritage.

If you’re wondering whether Kane suspected the worst, the answer is yes. How could he not think that it could be amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS?

“Initally, it was very scary,” Kane said. “But it was probably tougher on my wife.”

That would be Victoria, whom he married late in 2009. A short time later, Simpson got married to his longtime girlfriend, Dowd Keith, and once you get to know their story, you understand how complete this circle is.

Simpson and Kane, you see, aren’t like most player-caddie tandems on the PGA Tour. Oh, it’s a business arrangement in some respects, because it’s Kane’s job and Simpson’s livelihood. What ties them together is a friendship that goes back to when they were 6-year-old teammates on a youth basketball team. Then, in the summers, Simpson and Kane were comrades in golf at Carolina Club in Raleigh, N.C.

“We’d have 6:30 breakfast club,” Kane said. “Then we were off to the first tee.”

Both of them loved golf, though it was Simpson who stayed with the game through the serious national junior stuff, into Wake Forest, and onto the PGA Tour. Kane chose his favorite sport, basketball, and played at Armstrong Atlantic State.

What truly unites them, however, is a religious faith that they consider to be their foundation.

“My relationship with God is something I cherish more than anything else,” Simpson said.

“We see it as more than religion,” Kane said. “The person of Jesus Christ? We would say He was the most competitive of all . . . to hang on a cross for other people? Imagine the tenacity and toughness that would take?”

It is that faith that was called upon when Kane started feeling tired and weak, when he actually struggled to open a water bottle for his player. Fortunately, he isn’t saddled with a singled-minded competitor, but rather his best friend.

“Three or four times a round, Webb will look over and ask, ‘Do you need help with anything?’ ” Kane said. “He’s been absolutely terrific.”

Simpson had asked Kane to caddie for him when he made it onto the PGA Tour in 2009. Kane was involved in some ministry work at the time and had to give it some thought. He finally said yes, and he joined Simpson a month or so into the season.

It was a successful rookie campaign for Simpson, 70th on the money list with $1,249,674 and four top 10s. What made the year complete, however, were weddings for each of the young men, and so now on most tournament weeks the husbands are inside the ropes, the wives outside. They feel blessed to have such a life, and that isn’t changed at all by what Kane is facing.

“I see this as a way to prove I really trust that God is in control,” Kane said. “I think of a verse from 2 Corinthians – ‘Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.’ ”

Once doctors ruled out ALS and diagnosed it as MMN, Kane tackled a treatment plan. When Simpson missed the cut at the Memorial Tournament, Kane and his wife headed to Duke Hospital in Raleigh for what is called intravenous immunoglobulin.

“It’s pretty intense therapy, six hours a day for five days in a row,” Kane said. “But I have a good team, and we’re going in the right direction.”

photo

Webb Simpson and caddie William Kane during the first round of the Sony Open.

Simpson played the St. Jude Classic with a friend from college on the bag, then was off the week of the U.S. Open. When the Travelers Championship came around, Kane was back where he vows to be, a large black Titleist bag strapped to his back – only his smile was even bigger.

“It’s like my batteries were re-charged.”

Kane said he’ll have to go in for periodic IV treatments, and he’s accepted that it’s a neurological condition with which he’ll have to learn to live.

“It’s been weird, but very humbling,” Kane said. “I take great pride in my athletic ability, but I haven’t been able to do the basic tasks.”

Maybe not, but he has handled the important ones with great dignity, such as providing friendship and counsel to his friend, and being an inspiration.

“I feel it’s such a blessing to work together,” Simpson said. “I know he wants the best for me, and I have so much respect for him for that.”

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