Benn Barham debuts in PGA Cup on third anniversary of cancer recovery

Benn Barham at the PGA Cup
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Benn Barham, at the PGA Cup, has overcome kidney cancer to represent Great Britain & Ireland.
Bob Denney
The PGA of America

Series: PGA

Published: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 | 2:56 p.m.

NORTHUMBERLAND, England – Next month, PGA teaching professional Benn Barham of Kent, England, will mark the third anniversary of his awakening to a new chapter in life – recovery from kidney cancer. Barham, 37, competing this week in his first PGA Cup for Great Britain & Ireland, suffered severe stomach pain in July 2010, while competing in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in Perthshire, Scotland.

As it turned out, that stomach ache – as painful as it was – became one of the luckiest breaks of his life. 

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A physician working for the European Tour took one look at Barham and recommended that he get an ultrasound scan. A few days later, Barham had his answer – a tumor within a kidney. Barham underwent his operation in Kent and Canterbury Hospital, Oct. 12, 2010. He returned to a specialist who gave him the good news that the cancer was contained. Barham would not need chemotherapy, but he would need regular check-ups.

“I have had five doctors review my case and they felt those stomach pains was probably a virus and totally unconnected with the kidney problem,” but Dr. Jane Dunbar (of the European Tour Sports Medicine Team) remains convinced to this day that it was connected. If I had never have gone for a scan, the tumor wouldn’t have been detected. Things could have been a lot worse.”

In 2006, Barham had reached out to help families with children facing life-threatening illnesses. He organized “Barham’s Birdie Challenge,” donating a pound for each birdie he made. The project raised thousands of pounds for Demelza House, the children’s hospice in Sittingbourne. “I want to resurrect that,” said Barham, now a father of two daughters. “I made 270 birdies on the Tour. Demelza House gives respite for families to stay with their child.”

Barham recalls the “amazing amount of support” from family, friends, other golfers, and also from people who have suffered from the same problem. For someone who has competed in two Open Championships, had a run on the European and Challenge Tours, Barham says his PGA Cup selection was “a great opportunity.”

“From the moment I found out that I was on the team, it’s been something I’ve really looked forward to. There are no other comparisons I could make,” says the teaching professional at Kent’s Kings Hill Golf Club. “I never beat my alarms in the morning, but I beat it by an hour this morning. To represent Great Britain & Ireland is fantastic.”

And, to his third anniversary of awakening up from that operation, Barham pauses, a lump his throat, his eyes watering. “My priorities now … Yeah, hmmm. My priorities are to spend time with the family and see them grow up. That is what I think about now.”