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Trevor Immelman is making his PGA Grand Slam of Golf debut. (Photo: Getty Images)

Trevor Immelman PGA Grand Slam of Golf Profile

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By Bob Denney, The PGA of America

Inspiration often travels through peculiar routes, some of which include trials where we take a pause to cherish what we have.

Trevor Immelman's triumph at the 2008 Masters was preceded by a victory of even greater magnitude four months earlier.

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After withdrawing from the 2007 South African Airways Open due to labored breathing and severe pain around his rib cage area, he went into surgery.

Doctors discovered a tumor, the size of a golf ball, on his diaphragm. Once removed, it took the same doctors two days to determine that the tumor was benign. It was another six weeks before Immelman -- carrying a seven-inch incision across his lower back -- could regain his form.

Trying to sum up his thoughts in the Masters interview room, Immelman said he has been on "the ultimate roller-coaster ride, and I hate roller coasters. I win the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, and a week later I'm having an operation to remove a tumor ... I felt like I had to start from zero again. Here I am after missing the cut last week.

"Masters Champion ?- it's the craziest thing I've ever heard of."

That rollercoaster ride at Augusta National Golf Club was buoyed when the 28-year-old Immelman received a voice mail from one of his boyhood heroes, Gary Player, the night before the final round.

Player left Immelman a message of encouragement Saturday night before he left for the Middle East, telling him to be patient because there would be bad breaks.

"He told me that he believed in me and that I need to believe in myself," said Immelman. "He told me to go out there and be strong through adversity, because he said that adversity would come today, and I just had to deal with it ... it gave me goose bumps."

Immelman went on to a hard-earned final-round 75 to join Player as the only South Africans to win the Masters. From being ranked No. 29 in the world, Immelman ascended to golf's top tier after playing in just his fifth Masters as a professional. He became the sixth South African to win a major championship, joining Player (9), Bobby Locke (4), Ernie Els (3), Nick Price (3) and Retief Goosen (2).

"There's been a bunch of guys who have had a chance, and there will be more South Africans to win here," Immelman said. "This tournament is such a big deal down there. We grow up dreaming about winning this."

Ever since he was a kid who took up the game at 5 and was a scratch player by 12, Immelman has been branded as South Africa's next great star.

The promise had always been with Immelman, the son of Johan Immelman, the former commissioner of the Sunshine Tour. Trevor had aspired to excel at the game by following in the footsteps of his brother, Mark, the golf coach at Columbus (Ga.) State.

After winning the 1996 Junior PGA Championship, Immelman captured the 1998 U.S. Amateur Public Links and turned professional a year later. He began competing on the Challenge Tour in Europe, finishing 10th in 2000 on the Order of Merit.

He joined the European Tour in 2001 full-time and went on to win four times and in 2004 became the first to successfully defend the South African Open title since Player in the 1970s.

Through the travails he has endured off the course, Immelman said that he realized that the frustration that he often expended on his game was wasted energy and had caused him to misplace perspective.

"I just realized that I'd better start enjoying the talent I've been given," he said, "because it can be taken away."

When it counted most on a blustery Sunday at Augusta National, Immelman had found his focus and found the hole with his putter. He had been tough enough.

The Trevor Immelman File
PGA Grand Slam of Golf Appearances:Debut
Major Championship Wins:Masters 2008
Worldwide Victories:8
Birthdate:December 16, 1979
Birthplace:Cape Town, South Africa
Residences:Richmond, England; Orlando, Fla.
Family:Wife, Carminita; children, Jacob Trevor (2006)
Special Interests:Music, movies, autobiographies
Turned Professional:1999

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