Bandon, Ore. – John Urquhart walked off the ninth
green at Bandon Trails late Monday afternoon disappointed over his score of 87 in the first round of the
2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
Then he paused for a moment and thought, this sure beats
enduring five hours of kidney dialysis.
Five years ago, the Phoenix
resident woke up one April morning
with blurriness in his left eye. Uruhart shrugged it off initially as an
allergic reaction. But when the condition persisted, he made a trip to his ophthalmologist.
After a thorough examination, the doctor found hemorrhaging behind the eye.
When he took Uquhart’s blood pressure, it registered 224 over 142.
Urquhart was immediately rushed
to the hospital. The diagnosis: the then-36-year-old had an auto-immune
disorder known as IgA nephropathy. The disease might have been caught earlier
had Urquhart made regular doctor visits, but he hadn’t
gone for a check-up in 10 years.
Doctors told him he either had to start undergoing dialysis
treatments three times a week or he had 30 days to live.
Urquhart decided that there was
much more life to be lived, so he endured the five-hour dialysis sessions. He
even qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2008 while still receiving treatments.
The day before his sectional qualifier, he received dialysis. But when he
arrived in Milwaukee,
he only had time for half of a treatment and he didn’t feel 100 percent for the
competition. By the second day, fatigue had set in and he carded a 78 at
Milwaukee Country Club (he shot 72 at Brown Deer Park the first day) to miss
the match-play cut by three shots.
“It feels like you have the flu,” said Urquhart,
explaining the symptoms. “Your head and entire body aches.”
A month after the Mid-Amateur, Urquhart
received some good news. A kidney donor had been found. The blood type was a
perfect match. Urquhart underwent a 2½-hour surgical
procedure and has been living dialysis-free ever since.
He takes 17 pills a day to ensure his body won’t reject the
“I’m not tethered to a dialysis machine three days a week,”
said Urquhart with a smile. “My stamina is pretty
good now. I go to the gym three to four days a week.”
Which leaves Urquhart more time to pursue his two biggest
passions: golf and playing in his country band.
The golf has always had a major role, going back to his
college days at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix,
where he was the runner-up in the 1990 NAIA National Championship. That time at
Grand Canyon also led Uquhart to his singing
One night he was out at a bar and a friend secretly entered
him into a karaoke contest. Urquhart won the contest
and eventually launched a talent he didn’t know he possessed.
When he was 27 and working at Desert Mountain Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.,
he and two other assistant pros started a country band. They taught him to play
the guitar and the John
was created. The two golf pros have long since departed, but the band has
expanded to four other members: Ken Dye, Charles Pillow, Dule Adams and Jason
Breshears. Breshears and Dye also
sing, with the former playing lead guitar and the latter bass guitar. Adams is the drummer and
Pillow plays the fiddle. (To listen to one of Urquhart’s
songs, click here)
“The band is just magic when they play together,” said Jennifer Paynich,
Urquhart’s girlfriend, who traveled to Bandon Dunes
for this week’s APL. “They are just awesome. They are really
Urquhart, who also serves as the
manager, has the band booked on weekends for the remainder of the year. They
generally play in local bars or “honky tonks,” as Urquhart
described, but they have also opened for a few national acts. The last four
years, they have opened for Tracy
Lawrence at the Tucson Rodeo.
Earlier this year, they opened for Ty Herndon
at a classic car show at the Salt River Fields, the Arizona Diamondbacks’
According to Paynich, the band has quite a following in Phoenix.
The next step for Urquhart is
making a CD. Plans are evolving, but getting everyone together for studio time
has been the challenge.
In the meantime, Urquhart plays
golf during the week and with his band on the weekends. It has allowed his golf
game to improve exponentially since the transplant. He earned one of the four
spots at his APL sectional
qualifier in Phoenix.
But coming up to the chilly Oregon
coast from the Arizona
desert was a shock to his system. He went from temperatures in the 100s to the
upper 50s with rain and wind.
“I’ve been shooting 69 and 70,” he said. “I was pretty
confident [with my game] until today.”
But Urquhart can now put things
in proper perspective. Given what he’s been through the past five years, even
an 87 doesn’t seem so awful.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA.
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