“I’m just trying to be as responsible as I can because I don’t want my whole body hacked up by the time I’m an old man.” —Adam Scott, Pro Golfer
Today, I’m taking this blog to a more personal level. I love to play golf. I’ve been pretty much addicted since I started playing at age 13. My family moved to Albuquerque, NM in 1971, just prior to me starting Junior High School. It was there that my love affair began.
Shortly after I entered high school, I became friends (yes, just friends) with a girl whose dad was a golf nut just like me. His name was Skip Porter, and we became good golfing buddies. Skip was a teacher at the Albuquerque Academy and also the school’s golf coach. The combination of being a teacher AND a golfer, meant that Skip was always happy to share his knowledge and love for the game—me included.
Skip epitomized all the character traits that tend to separate golfers from participants of most other sports. I remember getting to play golf with Skip on numerous occasions. One day, in particular though, stands out in my mind. It was a local tournament, and I happened to be playing in Skip’s group. For me, it was one of those days that every golfer has now and then where I just didn’t play well. Following the awards ceremony, I had headed out to my car and was loading my clubs, when I noticed Skip approaching me, carrying a trophy in his hand. “Here, Rick, you hung tough today and I want you to have this.” With a smile, he handed me his trophy. I think that being a teacher made it easier for Skip to diagnose a struggling student (of golf), and know just what to do to soothe my wounds from a poorly played round. This was the kind of person Skip was. Even though I hadn’t earned the trophy, it still meant a lot to me. This gesture of kindness is still as vivid today as the day it happened.
Being a player and a coach meant Skip was in the sun a lot. Although Denver is noted for being the “mile high city”, Albuquerque is just as high, meaning the sun’s UV rays or not as filtered as at sea level. Skip never did wear sunscreen (he told me that once), and I can still remember how dark he would be by the end of the summer from his many days in the harsh sun.
A few years after I had left Albuquerque, I was living in Farmington, NM, about three hours northwest of Albuquerque, when I heard that Skip had terminal cancer. A week or two later, I was able to visit Skip at his home, where he was waiting for the inevitable. The man I saw lying in bed seemed like a ghost of the man I knew growing up. He had lost a great deal of weight and was very frail. He knew who I was, but the heavy amount of pain meds made it difficult for him to speak much. I talked to him for a few minutes and gave him a hug goodbye. Skip passed away three days later.
Skip died of cancer that had started as a carcinoma on one of his ears. After having about a third of his ear removed, the outlook had seemed OK. But a year or so later, while on a vacation/tour of sites where he had served as a Navy pilot during World War 2 in the Pacific, Skip began to feel sick. Upon returning home, doctors discovered that the original cancer had spread to Skip’s internal organs. After dodging all those enemy bullets during the war, it seemed ironic that Skip was about to be “shot down” by an enemy he just couldn’t outmaneuver.
There are lots of excuses people use to not wear sunscreen. But after seeing a great person and friend have his life cut short from skin cancer, those excuses sound pretty lame to me. The purpose of this website is to help educate people how to be safe in the sun and to be sure and wear sunscreen regularly. Being a golfer, I’ve noticed that the PGA Tour organization and its players have been doing a great job of late encouraging fans to wear sunscreen. Because of the time they spend in the sun, professional golfers get more UV exposure than most people, and the incidence of skin cancer among touring pros is on the rise. Below is a great sunscreen safety video produced by the PGA Tour. Also, here’s a link to a good article where a few pros who have dealt with skin cancer first hand.
Next time you’re going to be out in the sun for any length of time, remember your hat, sunglasses and your sunscreen. Be safe in the sun!