MEDINAH, Ill. — As Tami Proctor took her place near her boyfriend, Billy Mayfair, she heard him say that he was on the verge of weeping.
"Two weeks ago, he was under the knife," she said. "A week ago, he wasn't even cleared to play here and today we're standing here at three under par. Needless to say, I'm extremely ecstatic."
Mayfair, who turned 40 on Aug. 6, three days after he had surgery for testicular cancer, shot a three-under 69 Thursday at Medinah Country Club in the first round of the PGA Championship.
"I'm thrilled to be here and almost had tears in my eyes today," he said.
It hasn't been a terrific year for Mayfair, at least on the golf course. He has had four top 10s, but only one since the week after the Masters and that was at the John Deere Classic, where he tied for seventh. He didn't play again until the Buick Open, but he found a lump July 31, got it tested the next day and had surgery in Scottsdale, where he lives.
But off the golf course, Mayfair had to feel fortunate. Even though his marriage had broken up, he had found Proctor. And despite the cancer, it had been detected early, and now he was playing again.
"I got scared," he said. "The first thing you think of is cancer.
"I was not only thinking of playing golf again, playing on the tour again, but I was thinking of my family, thinking of my son, Max. A lot of things go through your mind."
Mayfair has won five times on the PGA Tour, but not since 1998, when he won twice, including the Nissan Open at Valencia Country Club, becoming the only player who has defeated Tiger Woods in a playoff.
There might not be more victories for Mayfair, but as far as he's concerned, he has just scored his biggest victory anyway.
"To all the fans across the country who well-wished me and sent me messages and to all these fans here in Chicago who were just wonderful for me today and clapped and . . . cheered me on, it was a great place to come back to," he said.