Lake Forest, Ill. – As he walked off Conway Farms’ fourth green after playing 22 intense holes of a first-round match Monday afternoon at the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur, Edward Richardson couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed.
The 44-year-old Englishman had battled back from a 4-down deficit with five second-nine birdies to force extra holes against Jeff Murphy, of Pleasant Hill, Calif.
Then Murphy dropped a 20-foot birdie putt at the fourth playoff hole to win.
“You don’t wish ill-will on anyone, but I was a bit disappointed,” said Richardson.
Yet Richardson won’t be devastated over the defeat on the long plane ride back to England.
Not after the news Richardson received four years ago. That’s when everything came into perspective.
During a routine doctor’s visit for his daughter, Richardson told his family physician that he was always tired. He would forget things easily. After a blood test, Richardson was called at 7:20 a.m. the next day.
“They told me to get to the hospital right away,” he said.
Richardson’s hemoglobin was at 5.8. The average level for a man his age is between 13 and 15. He was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a form of leukemia. The disorder causes bone marrow to be replaced by scar (fibrous) tissue. In layman’s terms, the marrow is not able to make enough red-blood cells. Anemia, bleeding problems and higher risk of infections can occur.
The diagnosis was made in August; doctors told Richardson he would be lucky to live until Christmas.
“It was like watching a film,” said Richardson. “I didn’t believe it.”
Doctors found a bone-marrow donor and he underwent a transplant in early 2009. Richardson said he has since received two additional “top-ups” of bone marrow.
Three years after the initial news, Richardson has been given a new lease on life.
Although he lost a significant amount of weight – he was down to 112 pounds – and had to re-learn golf from scratch, Richardson remarkably was playing tournaments again by last August.
By the summer Richardson was inside the top 400 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking, which earned him an exemption into this year’s Mid-Amateur. He currently is ranked 313th.
Richardson isn’t totally worry-free – doctors constantly monitor his red-blood cells – but an upbeat attitude has made the transition easier.
“It’s no different to golf,” said Richardson. “You just have to have a good attitude. You don’t complain, and it’s funny how good things happen.”
Richardson first came to the U.S. to play collegiately at the University of Miami in Florida. When he was a junior, his senior teammates included future PGA Tour players Scott Gump and Woody Austin. Richardson never turned pro, choosing instead to become the director of a private equity business in suburban London.
“I can find an easier way to make a living,” said Richardson, who resides in Brighton, some 50 miles south of London. “It allows me to [play amateur golf].”
Richardson mainly competes in open amateur competitions. In fact, this was his first-ever mid-amateur (25 and over) competition. He had thought about coming over to qualify in the past, but the expense just to play in an 18-hole qualifier wasn’t worth it, especially if he failed to make it into the field.
“I heard the reputation of this tournament was really good,” said Richardson. “As soon as they put in the exemption for the top 400 in the [WAGR], it actually became a goal of mine.”
This year, he got a last-minute invite to the Lytham Trophy and finished among the top 20. He added several more top-5 and top-10 finishes and saw his position in the WAGR go up.
“I probably played more tournaments than I would have liked to this year simply because I wanted the ranking,” he said. That meant traveling to places like Portugal to compete.
Once here in Chicago, Richardson made the most of his first USGA experience. He followed a 4-over 75 at Conway with a 2-under 69 on Sunday at Knollwood Club, the companion stroke-play qualifying venue, to earn the fifth seed. Richardson felt confident going into his match against Murphy.
But after Murphy holed out a chip for birdie at the par-3 second, Richardson gave his opponent holes 3 and 4 with bogey-5s. By the turn, he was 4 down and muttering to himself.
“I told myself I have nothing to lose,” said Richardson, who proceeded to birdie Nos. 10, 13, 14 and 15 to get within one hole.
A winning par at 16 squared the match. At the par-5 18th hole, Richardson stuffed a wedge approach to 4 feet, only to see Murphy answer by knocking his approach to 5 feet. The matching birdies sent them to the par-4 first hole.
“I gave him a start, but I made him work for everything coming back,” said Richardson. “There were no gifts. He just putted fantastic.”
At the fourth extra hole, Murphy drained another long putt and Richardson failed to answer after hitting a 4-iron approach from 208 yards to 8 feet. Richardson and his good friend Shaun Pilbean, who has caddied for him the last eight years, started walking back to their car. Midway down the third fairway, a cart picked them up and brought them to the clubhouse.
Next week, Richardson and his girlfriend will be in Spain on holiday, and he is thinking about visiting Morocco or Hong Kong later this year.
For Richardson, being healthy and happy – and enjoying life – far outweigh a tough defeat on the golf course.
“You’ve got to put everything into perspective,” he said before departing Conway Farms. “I’ll go back to the hotel, shower, have a few beers [with Shaun] and catch a plane in the morning.”
David Shefter is a USGA senior staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.