Lyme Disease, Non-transmittable, Hits Golf Family Twice
Jimmy Walker, well-known PGA pro, was really on his way in 2014, jumping into the gallery’s consciousness by winning three of the first eight events of the season. That amounts to winning almost half of everything held within a two-month period. The 38-year old Walker is an Oklahoman, hailing from Rickie Fowler country. However, during the last year, Walker spent most of the time feeling miserable, suddenly becoming ill for no apparent reason or on any particular schedule. The up-and-comer had worked his way up to a 20th place ranking in the world standings. but before he knew it, he had slipped all the way to number 70. Testing revealed that Walker had contracted Lyme disease, among the primary sources of which is ticks. That’s the kind of insect that can find a perfect home on a golf course, and just about anywhere else in the country, especially if deer are present.
So, I looked up a few things about Lyme disease. It has always been a mystery illness for me, and perhaps for many others. Once bitten by a tick, the victim has a maximum of 48 hours before the disease reaches the animal’s saliva. One it finds a place in a human, the victim lives a life of fever, excruciating headaches, and fatigue. Those three symptoms are murder on a golfer, and Walker found it difficult to practice. Worse, he couldn’t play with his children. Among the sensations he mentioned one that struck me emphatically was ‘brain fog.’
I am a mercifully healthy golfer so far, but the game has a built-in source of brain fog as is for many of us, simply by the sequence of those components of the swing that require concentration. When I address the ball, I feel crystal clear in my vision and intent. However, in the split second where I anticipate taking back the club, things start to shift, and when I finally begin the backswing, I experience a tiny moment of utter forgetfulness, This utter lack of mental connection is replaced by a ‘Hail Mary’ feeling, a quick prayer that the club will come back down the way I hoped that it would, because I can’t remember what I was going to do. Part of that is undoubtedly being an amateur golfer, but I’m willing to bet that others experience something a little bit like it. Just thinking of that, then adding the symptoms described by Jimmy Walker, I cannot imagine how he was able to hang on to a ranking of 70, professional or not. To play in the company of the top 70 in the world with that kind of physical and mental challenge? I can’t even fathom it.
Walker is, according to family observations, about 90% back. He’s playing competitively again, and hopes to regain 2014 form. However, wife Erin Walker has inexplicably contracted the very same thing, and is struggling with the same horrible regimen her husband endured. Add symptoms of heart palpitations and joint pain, and then ask about the game of golf. Lyme, a bacterial infection is common in North America, more so than in Europe. Still, the disease is non-transmittable between humans, or by either animals or food, unless the insect is carried by a non-human host. The diagnosis can go all sorts of other terrifying directions before being confirmed. Long pants, long sleeves, tucked-in socks and boots are good safeguards. Light colors show the presence of a tick better than dark fabrics, and hot washing for clothes that have been in the countryside is recommended. So, where did Erin Walker contract Lyme disease, if living with her husband didn’t do it? The Walker family figures it must have been a golf course, somewhere out there. It is their common thread with the world of each other, and with ticks. It will be good to see Jimmy Walker get back to feeling good and playing great golf. To see Erin emerge from the time she spends fighting the disease will feel even more wonderful for him. Then, with all things back on track, one hopes that the ubiquitous North American tick will leave the Walker family alone forever.