Richardson survives blood disorder; to make pro debut

Edward Richardson will make his first start in a professional tournament this week when he tees it up in the Hong Kong Open. The 44-year-old Englishman is lucky to be alive never mind playing golf.

Richardson gains a place in the co-sanctioned European Tour/Asian Tour event courtesy of winning the Hong Kong Amateur Championship. He won that tournament by 14 shots.

But his biggest victory came last year when he returned to the fairways after defying the Grim Reaper.

The Englishman was diagnosed with the rare blood disorder myelofibrosis in August 2008 and wasn’t given much chance of survival.

“I was sat down in a very impersonal room and told by someone I had only met a few days before that I needed to get my estate in order because I might not make Christmas,” Richardson said.

The career amateur had been suffering from chronic fatigue for a long time before seeking medical advice.

“People close to me told me I seemed vacant and always appeared tired, that something wasn’t right. It was affecting my social life. I’d go out for dinner and after the main course I’d want to lie down.”

Needless to say, Richardson got a shock when he got the doctor’s diagnosis.

“I couldn’t believe what was happening. I knew I wasn’t very well and had problems, but I didn’t think they were life threatening. Basically, I had lost the ability to carry sufficient hemoglobin around my body to use all my vital organs. I was living with about a third of the hemoglobin that a healthy human being should have.”

Richardson spent three months in isolation at Kings College Hospital in London. He lost half his body weight as well as his immune system. He underwent chemotherapy, radiotherapy and eventually needed a bone marrow transplant.

He did make Christmas 2008, but took nearly three years to get his health back to the point where he could start playing golf again. He began playing elite amateur golf in July 2011, and played a full schedule this year.

A member of the England elite team before his illness, he realized he was capable of competing again at the highest level in the amateur game when he placed 18th in the Portuguese Amateur Championship in February. He then finished eighth in the South of England Championship, third in the Lagonda Trophy, fifth in the Berkshire Trophy and fourth in U.S. Amateur qualifying before winning in Hong Kong.

Richardson, son of former England cricketer Peter, is an anachronism in the today’s amateur game. Not many thirty-somethings are competing in elite amateur events never mind 44-year-olds. He is a true amateur inasmuch as he has to balance tournament play with earning a living. He’s never considered a pro career because he “doesn’t want to play for my mortgage.”

Success in the telecommunications business has funded Richardson’s tournament play over the years. Indeed, he’s just sold a business he owned called ECL Telecom, which means he will have more time to concentrate on tournament play in future.

He aims to make up for lost time. Ironically, his three years away from the game might just help.

“When you play a lot of tournament golf you very rarely gets the luxury of having over two and a half years to reflect on what you’ve done and what you haven’t done” he said. “During my illness I looked at a lot of the clichés you think about but don’t adopt: better organization, better thinking, more specific practicing.”

He also decided to see a hypnotherapist to find consistent clarity of mind. He credits that move with helping him be successful this year.

Richardson will play a full amateur schedule next year too. Most pressing on his mind is playing amongst Europe and Asia’s elite this week, although the plus-3 handicapper from Kent, England, is not making any predictions.

“I haven’t set any expectations. I never do. I’m just focused on doing the best I can.”

As for the future, he’s not making too many plans on that front either.

“I haven’t thought too far ahead and I’m not going to. My goals are no more than three or four months ahead. When you’ve been in a situation like I have you tend not to look too far ahead because you don’t know what’s around the corner.”

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