U.S. AMATEUR PUBLIC LINKS
Kidney transplant recipient enjoying golf and his country band June 27, 2011 By David Shefter, USGA

 

Five years ago, John Uruqhart nearly died from kidney failure. But after receiving a transplant in 2008, he has had a new lease on life. (Steven Gibbons/USGA) 

 

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 new kidney.

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 career.

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 Eric Band 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 good.

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’ spring-training facility.

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. E-mail questions or comments to dshefter@usga.org.