Golf Odyssey: From Texas to Canada, A Story of Survival

By David R. Holland, Contributor

Editor's Note: Daily, we are hearing personal story after personal story about the devastation of September 11, 2001. The week that followed was the worst in the history of the USA. Even the sports world has been rocked and one of golf's most anticipated and exciting events, the Ryder Cup, has been postponed for an entire year. Here's a feel-good story from the world of golf that might make you feel better, and more optimistic, even if only for a brief moment.

JASPER, Alberta -- Life has shown Stuart Hendley as many peaks and valleys as you will see in the sawtooth-jagged, craggy Rocky Mountains of Canada.

Today, the Texas-born resident of Canada is mighty grateful he has found a level spot in his life, and the outgoing, personable Canadian Tour player is enjoying work, family and life.

It hasn't always been this good.

In 1982, at the age of 17, Hendley was named the No. 1 junior golfer in the United States by Golf Digest and was the Junior World Champion. The same year, Hendley was also diagnosed with bone cancer.

"When Stuart was playing junior golf in Houston lots of people thought he was going to be the next Jack Nicklaus," said Houston native Bill Pelham, a PGA Tour player in the late 1970s. "I remember hearing a lot of good things about him during that time."

But the accolades of his golf future came to a dramatic halt. Hendley disappeared from the Lone Star road map of golf. He was in the fight of his life and endured a long and courageous battle before returning to golf three years after the diagnosis.

"The doctors told me of all the people diagnosed with this cancer, 50 percent would still be alive in three years," Hendley recalled. "That's not something you want to hear. The next 16 months were very tough. During my chemotherapy I also developed hepatitis because of all the medication and I also had bone-graft surgery."

Suddenly, Hendley could see some daylight -- the cancer was in remission 32 months later and he resumed his golf career at the University of Houston on a golf scholarship with teammates Steve Elkington and Billy Ray Brown.

"I was so intense in those days," he said. "But today I realize that family is most important -- my wife and daughter."

He met his wife Virginia in 1990 when he was playing in the Alberta Open at Wolf Creek Golf Resort, the club he is now affiliated with. Daughter Kamryn is now part of his life, too. They live in Lacombe, Alberta.

"There's no doubt in my mind that if I hadn't gotten sick I would be a PGA Tour veteran by now," Hendley said. "But I might not have met my wife. "

Hendley turned pro in 1986 at the age of 22 and qualified for the Canadian Tour in 1987. He has won four tournaments on the Canadian Tour, including the 1994 Canadian PGA and has a total of 13 wins worldwide. He has competed on the Australian, South African, South American and Asian Tours as well as events on the PGA, European and Japanese tours.

"It's certainly not tour experience that I need at this point in my life," Hendley said. "For 15 years I was playing 30 tournaments a year. What I need now is the opportunity to earn a living for my family."

Currently, Hendley is involved more in the corporate end of golf. He has performed at more than 300 outings for corporations, charity golf events, junior golf clinics and public speaking. He is actively involved in Tom Lehman's money raising events of children's cancer research. He also runs Maple Leaf Golf Excursions, which are luxury golf vacations to the Canadian Rockies.

"I have played a few tournaments this year, but I have been too busy with all of the corporate outings and events to play much competitive golf," he said.

"I have decided that there is only one place that I am interested in playing anymore and that's the U.S. Tour or So that's where I intend on focusing much of my effort at this point in my career. I am too busy to even think about the Q-school this year, but I am hoping to start concentrating on that event starting next year. I will be 37 in October, so I am giving myself until the age of 40 to get on one of those tours, preferably on the PGA Tour," he said.

No doubt this gritty competitor has already won the most important match of his life.

Canadian Tour Victories: 1994 Trafalgar CPGA Championship; 1992 Infiniti TPC; 1989 Manitoba Open.

International Victory: 1994 Bermuda Open.

Other Achievements: 1999 Won Bell Bay Matches (with Scott Petersen); 1998 T4 Peru Open; 1997 2nd (lost playoff) Henry Singer Alberta Open, 5th Cantel Canadian PGA Championship; 1995 3rd Bermuda Open, T4 Bell's Cup (South Africa), 5th Xerox Manitoba Open, 5th Henry Singer Alberta Open, 5th BC TEL Pacific Open; 1993 4th Ballantynes Quebec Open, 5th Infiniti TPC; 1992 4th Quebec Open, 4th PEI King's County Classic; 1991 2nd Manitoba Open; 1989 2nd Transamerica Canadian PGA Championship.

Other Tours Played: Australia, Asia, South Africa, South America.

Bio, Stats: 5-9, 170. Date of Birth: October 7, 1964. Born: Houston, Texas. Residence: Lacombe, Alberta. Wife, Virginia; daughter Kamryn. Attended University of Houston. Turned Professional in 1986. Joined Canadian Tour through 1987 Q-School. Club Affiliation: Wolf Creek Golf Resort.

Maple Leaf Luxury Golf Excursions:
56 Riviera Drive
Lacombe, Alberta, Canada T4L 2H7
Telephone: Toll Free 877-477-8801.
Fax: 403-782-7928.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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