Woodson's National Championship debut is especially meaningful feat

Rick Woodson
Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America
Rick Woodson made it all the way to the PGA Professional National Championship as he continues his life after a bout of testicular cancer.
The PGA of America

Series: PGA

Published: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 | 5:35 p.m.

SEASIDE, Calif. -- Rick Woodson did not make the cut in his debut in the 45th PGA Professional National Championship Monday night at Bayonet Black Horse. The 48-year-old PGA director of instruction at Woodbridge Golf Club in Wylie, Texas, was a dozen shots off the pace.

Such news would slide gently into a footnote on the pages of a sports section unless you dig a bit deeper on Woodson's journey.

In December 2007, Woodson faced a mountain of an obstacle to dwarf anything he would face on a golf course. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

"I can't begin to tell you what it feels like when you hear someone tell you that you have cancer," said Woodson. "Though I had a form that had a high success rate, it is always hard to hear. It is as much an emotional toll as it was a physical toll on my life."

Woodson underwent six weeks of radiation treatment through 2008, a total of 17 treatments that would sap his energy.

"It took me six months to get over that," said Woodson. "I was fortunate to have tremendous support through my family and my friends in golf. Todd Barranger, a friend of mine on the Nationwide Tour, also suffered the same form of cancer, and has gone through several bouts. He came to see me, and gave me the encouragement I needed."

Woodson also contacted Lance Armstrong, and heard from the cycling legend's own physician.

"I heard about my cancer having a 98 percent non-reoccurrence rate. Things like that keep your spirits up. I think about the cancer that Lance had, and how it spread. I also look at him now and how he has become a great inspiration for others suffering."

Woodson's recovery process involved a series of check-ups over the next five years, which ranged from several times a month through the first two years to a monthly check-up the ensuing three years.

A former member of the Nationwide and Canadian tours, Woodson said that his top competitive moment came during the final round of the second stage of the 2000 PGA Tour Qualifying School in Beaumont, Calif.

"The wind was blowing about 40 miles per hour," said Woodson. "I came in with an even-par 72. Instead of being one stroke out, I was three strokes within the cut line."

As good as that felt, Woodson received the news that ranks with winning a lottery before he competed at Dallas Athletic Club in the 2010 Northern Texas PGA Championship. He was declared cancer-free. Was there any surprise that he went on to win that Championship?

"It was a great story, and continues to be a special journey about a fine player, a great teacher, an incredibly hard-working PGA Professional," said Northern Texas PGA Executive Director Mark Harrison. "Rick has a great family, two wonderful kids and does an exceptional job for his facility. He has been able to refocus himself after what he has endured."

Last year, Woodson took advantage of the exemption from capturing his Section Championship.

He competed in the HP Byron Nelson Championship. He walked on to the putting green where he met PGA Tour veteran Billy Mayfair.

"Billy also is a survivor of testicular cancer," said Woodson. "You are amazed at how prevalent it is. It was good for me to talk to Billy, and those moments have helped carry me on."

For the record, Woodson posted rounds of 81 and 75 at Bayonet Black Horse for two days. He was one of 235 players from 42 states and the District of Columbia not playing the final two rounds of the 45th PGA Professional National Championship.

He was not one to use an excuse of a ruptured disk in his back suffered in January. He had played only four competitive rounds prior to arriving in Seaside. Woodson is not good at making excuses.

"I'm not that far off," said Woodson. "I was not good around the greens. I did not hit the ball that bad. When you consider the time spent for the majority of us at our jobs, you understand that we lose a little off our 'touch' shots."

Woodson had time to reflect upon his National Championship debut, and he understandably looked back on where he had come the past few years.

"You find out quickly from what I have been through that the most important things in life are your life, your family, the friends you make," said Woodson. "It allows you to get a better grasp on things. I have had a taste of what it is to play at the top level, and no one is more competitive than I am."