DEAL, N.J. – It was a bittersweet walk off the course for Louella Kanew, who lost to Kareen Markle, of Meridian, Idaho, 2 up, in Tuesday’s Round of 16 match at the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship at Hollywood Country Club.
Bitter because she was eliminated in her first appearance at this championship. Sweet because she got to compete in this championship.
The South Africa native and current resident of Calabasas, Calif., was diagnosed with breast cancer in November. She underwent a double mastectomy on Jan. 29, was able to hit golf balls again by early April and arrived here this week to compete in a national championship eight months after her surgery.
I’m a survivor and I kept telling myself today, if I could beat cancer, I could win this match, said Kanew, 52, whose previous best USGA championship finish was a Round-of-64 loss to Corey Weworski in the 2005 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur.
I came here this week really feeling like I could win this tournament, said Kanew, who was born in Johannesburg and came to the United States to play college tennis at the University of Texas.
I didn’t play consistently this afternoon. I just wish I were going on in the tournament, because I want to keep playing this golf course. It’s a great course.
Following her surgery, Kanew was told she wouldn’t be able to play golf for about five months. She described the first two weeks after the surgery as excruciating, but her training as an NCAA Division I tennis player helped her focus on moving past the pain and discomfort.
Every day, I felt a little bit more human and pretty soon, I was like, wow, I think I could chip a few or putt a few, she said.
Kanew chose to undergo a double mastectomy because doctors wanted to give her radiation and various medications. Her lymph nodes were clear of cancer, but she was at risk.
I said no to the chemotherapy and radiation and agreed to the surgery to get rid of where the cancer could possibly spread, she added. At least I was in good shape when this happened. And during the whole ordeal, all I could think about was how I wanted to hit golf balls.
Kanew is cancer-free, but she admitted It’s an ongoing thing. At the end of the year, she will get an MRI to evaluate her status.
Just being healthy, being an athlete and having the work ethic from playing tennis helped, she said. After the surgery, I knew I had to go to the gym and do all of those horrible exercises and work through the pain.
As the daughter of tennis player Russell Seymour, who represented South Africa in two Davis Cups (1953 and 1955) and competed at Wimbledon and the French Open, Kanew grew up competing in tennis and hearing her father say, All you care about is not losing, instead of caring about winning. She found that reversed when she picked up golf years later.
Now, when I play golf, I really, really want to win and play well, she said. I wish I’d played golf as a kid.
Kanew’s father used to play golf with Gary Player and Player would play tennis with her father.
They were the reigning South African stars in their sports and when they were together, they would also do their 1,000 situps, said Kanew, laughing.
That early exposure to the game prepared Kanew for college tennis, and after graduating from Texas in 1983, she played on a professional tennis circuit for about eight months before learning that she didn’t want to live out of a suitcase.
She established a commercial production company and lived in Texas for about 12 years, where she made television commercials for clients such as Pepsi and Texas State Tourism. Then she moved to Los Angeles, where she launched a movie marketing company, Indaba Films, to create short sizzle promo reels for the film industry.
She met Jeffrey Kanew in 1994 on a movie project and they married later that year. He was one of the film directors interested in the project she was producing.
We actually ended up not making the film because the script was very similar to ‘Free Willy’ and they beat us to it, she said.
They missed out making the movie, but personally connected during that project. The two now have two teenage children – one, who is a musician, and another who is a junior golfer.
Kanew says the word indaba is an African word that means the coming together of people to organize something. It was the perfect word for the name of her company, and this week, it also applied to a national championship that served as her goal after major surgery.
I wanted to win this, but I feel really good, she said as she left the course. I don’t think I’ll bother playing the Women’s Mid-Am again, because now I know I’ll be getting ready for next year’s Senior Women’s [Amateur] Championship.
Past Champion Hardin Living In The Moment
A Round-of-16 match featuring past U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champions often lacked the focused intensity befitting such a tilt, as Mina Hardin and Sherry Herman amusingly made light of their miscues and encouraged the other after good shots.
Hardin, 54, of Mexico, the 2010 winner and 2011 runner-up emerged with a 4-and-3 victory over 2009 champion Herman, 56, of Jackson, N.J.
Despite winning the Senior Women’s Amateur in consecutive years, Hardin and Herman’s paths had never crossed in USGA competition. Hardin said the thought never even crossed her mind.
"I knew I had my hands full, because she's a very good player. That’s all I was thinking," Hardin said. "Of course, being a champion carries a little weight with it. But we're all on equal footing here. It can go either way and I just wanted to hit one shot a time and hit the ball nice and see what happens."
Playing in her 47th USGA championship – she improved to 52-23 all-time in USGA match play with her victories on Tuesday – Hardin, who lives in Fort Worth, Texas, looked the part of a serious competitor, but also someone who knows she is playing with house money.
Hardin’s self-deprecating voice was hard to miss. After her drive on No. 12, Hardin offered the ball encouragement: Run, run like an open sore. After Herman’s approach rolled off the front slope of the green on No. 13, right after Hardin’s shot did the same, Herman said, See, it’s not just you, Mina. Good, I was starting to think I was getting picked on, replied Hardin, laughing.
"It was really nice, because we're good friends and we always newsContent for each other," Hardin said. "We met on the first tee and said to each other, 'Let's play well.' It's always nice to have that camaraderie."
Make no mistake, Hardin, the first Mexican-born USGA champion and first Mexican-born player on the LPGA Tour, wants a second trophy very badly. But she’s constantly aware of her surroundings and appreciates how good she has it.
"We all want this championship, because it means so much," Hardin said. "But you can't forget that it's not life and death, like [two-time defending champion] Ellen [Port] said at the banquet. We do this for fun. We do this for the love of the game and you have to still enjoy your day. Even when it's raining, like this morning, you have to enjoy every moment. It was fun playing with Sherry, because we're good friends and we enjoy each other's company. Yeah, we're out here competing on the course, but you have to take a moment to appreciate the surroundings and each other's fellowship."
Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.