Sports

Pro golfer with multiple sclerosis to play in Federal Way tournament

Heather Drew began golfing as a young girl but retired in 1999 after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease that attacks the Central Nervous System. In 2011 she returned to her professional career. Drew will compete at the 2014 Pepsi Northwest Women’s Open in Federal Way July 21-23. - Contributed photo
Heather Drew began golfing as a young girl but retired in 1999 after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease that attacks the Central Nervous System. In 2011 she returned to her professional career. Drew will compete at the 2014 Pepsi Northwest Women’s Open in Federal Way July 21-23.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Since she was a child, Heather Drew knew she wanted to compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association.

She graduated from University of Arizona in 1981 and just a few months later turned pro.

“It was something I really wanted to do,” she said.

For the next 18 years, Drew competed in tournaments, taking second place several times as well as making the top 10 often, she said.

Drew will be one of as many as 60 women to participate in the 2014 Pepsi Northwest Women’s Open at Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club in Federal Way.

Drew describes golf as a sport that needs single-minded focus to overcome the challenges — and her own golfing career has included many adversities.

In 1996 she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an incurable, chronic disease that attacks the Central Nervous System.

When she was diagnosed, Drew was afraid of the unknown, she said.

“I just thought everything was over,” she said.

Drew didn’t know much about MS before her diagnosis, and when she received it her misconceptions painted a picture of a life much different than her golfing career, she said. She thought she might need a walker or a wheelchair. But each case of MS can manifest itself differently, and Drew’s manifestation is numbness, she said.

People often think multiple sclerosis is always debilitating ­­— and Drew thought so too, at first.

“[But] if you have MS, it doesn’t mean your life is over,” Drew said.

In 1999 Drew retired from professional golf. But golfing had been a part of her whole life, so she couldn’t stay away. In 2000 she returned to the course as a caddy and carried gear for other competitors until 2010, when she decided to once again golf professionally, she said.

She had golfed intermittently when she was a caddy, but she made her reentrance into the sport in 2011.

“Golfers are optimists,” she said.

In May 2013, her dedication paid off and Drew won her first tournament — the LPGA Teaching and Club Professionals western division tournament.

Though Drew is in it to win it for every tournament, more precious to her are the relationships she has developed with her peers, she said.

Since her diagnosis, Drew takes a medical injection three times a week. MS doesn’t affect her game or her body.

“Physically, everything is A-OK,” she said.

The focus Drew used to attack and overcome her diagnosis was the same focus she used to attack each golf match.

“What I’m trying to do is hopefully be an inspiration,” she said.

Her own misconceptions about multiple sclerosis were, in part, due to not knowing a person could continue to be active despite it, she said. Now, Drew uses her story to encourage other MS patients through patient programs. Though her story is supposed to inspire others, she often leaves feeling inspired herself and she uses her golfing career to carry on the cycle of inspiration.

“You don’t have to give up on what you love just because you have a disease,” she said.

The Women’s Open will be July 22 and 23, with pre-event activities on July 21, including pro-am and kids clinics.

The Kusak Cup will kick off the three-day event at 7:30 a.m. July 21. Eight professionals and two amateurs will compete in five individual matches. Professionals and sponsors will play in the Nike Pro-Am at 12:30. Following the conclusion of the pro-am, a banquet will be held for all tournament participants.

The tournament begins at 9 a.m. on Tuesday for the first 18 holes. Players will be re-matched for Wednesday’s 18 holes based on scores from the first day. Wednesday’s matches begin at 7:30 a.m. with an awards ceremony following the final round.

For more information, contact the club at 253-838-0345. The club is located at 3583 SW 320th St.

 

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