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Life Is Good Again for Floyd After Cancer Diagnosis

Given a clean bill of health, he returns to competition for the first time since December surgery in SBC Classic.

March 13, 2003|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

The familiar wrap-around sunglasses Ray Floyd wore Wednesday at Valencia Country Club could easily have been mistaken for rose-colored glasses. The spring in his step as he played a pro-am round mirrored the excitement of a child at play.

Floyd was acting as though he had a new lease on life because he did. In October, doctors diagnosed prostate cancer and on Dec. 17 he had surgery. He was given a clean bill of health about two weeks ago and will make his 2003 competitive debut Friday in the first round of the Champions Tour SBC Classic.

"It's somewhat shocking when you find out," said Floyd, a four-time PGA Tour major champion.

"It happens to other people; you just never think it's going to happen to you. I guess that's human nature. It's behind me now and, knock on wood, it's as good as it could possibly be."

Floyd said he had been monitoring his prostate for about three years as a part of his regular checkups. Doctors noticed a rise in his prostate specific antigens -- a warning signal for prostate cancer -- and suggested a biopsy last October.

It showed the early stages of cancer. Floyd did not play golf for eight weeks after the surgery. The winner of a combined 36 PGA and Champions Tour events last played competitively Dec. 15 at the Father-Son Challenge, an unofficial event.

"I don't know how competitive I'll be," Floyd said. "I feel like I'm playing fairly well. But I haven't been in competition in quite some time. For me to play six days straight, that'll be a test for me."

Floyd is the third high-profile Champions Tour player to have prostate cancer surgery in the last six years. Arnold Palmer had it in 1997 and Jim Colbert underwent the surgery later that same year. Bobby Walzel, another tour player, had prostate surgery last year. All three recovered and returned to the Champions Tour. Colbert has won twice since his surgery.

Said Tom Kite, defending champion this week: "It's a little bit of a wake-up call. There's no question that you're going to have some players out here that are going to have some health problems."

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men. It is diagnosed about 190,000 times a year; more than 30,000 men each year die from it.

"Many, many older people actually have it," Floyd said. "It's something that happens with age. The key is early detection, and that's what I'd like to be an advocate for. When a guy gets to be 50, he just needs to get his PSA tested. Minimally once a year and if it's rising, every six months."

Floyd said the most difficult thing to deal with was the seriousness of the diagnosis. Before October, the most severe medical problem he had to deal with was a hernia in 2002. Cancer caused introspection.

"I've had a pretty good run," Floyd said. "I've never had to deal with anything like this. I had to really do some thoughtful stuff. I realize how fortunate I am."

Floyd told his wife and kids, but otherwise kept the diagnosis quiet because he didn't want the attention. He decided to make it public before he resumed playing.

"I felt it was the thing to do to let the golfing world know," Floyd said. "I didn't want to come back and it be a total secret. And it's behind me now. I just felt that it's the hand I was dealt and I want to play it the best I can."

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