Host professional Gary Lindeblad, just prior to starting play in Friday’s opening round of the Rosauers Open golf tournament, claimed he didn’t feel any differently than he has any other time he’s teed it up in the Pacific Northwest PGA’s richest section event.
Which is difficult to imagine, considering Lindeblad was recently declared cancer free for the first time since 1998 when he was first diagnosed with Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia, a rare and frequently terminal form of lymphoma.
Since then, the 58-year-old Lindeblad, who is in his 24th year as the head professional at Indian Canyon Golf Course, where he founded the wildly successful Rosauers Open in 1988, had undergone a seemingly endless series of chemotherapy treatments that have often sapped him of his strength, but never his enthusiasm for life and the game of golf.
But on Friday, looking fit and trim while hitting a few preround practice putts, Lindeblad explained that his doctor informed him during his last checkup that the cancer has gone away – for the time being, at least.
“He said he couldn’t find a trace of it anywhere,” Lindeblad said. “It’s gone, I guess. It’s a full-blown miracle.”
When asked how he feels about the unexpected development, Lindeblad said, “I don’t know. I really don’t know what to think. But my wife is probably mad, because the news set her retirement plans back quite a bit.”
Lindeblad, who was given two to five years to live at the time he was first diagnosed with cancer, won the Rosauers title in 1990 to become the first host professional to win a PNWPGA major event. In 2007, he was inducted into the PNWPGA’s Hall of Fame, and just last fall was inducted into the Eastern Washington University Athletics Hall of Fame by his alma mater.
Lindeblad said his doctor has been “dancing around the issue” of the cancer being gone for three or four months, noting that samples of his last two bone marrow taps were sent to three or four different labs because his doctor didn’t really believe they were clean.
“And then when I went in for my scheduled chemotherapy treatment a couple of weeks ago, he said, ‘I don’t think we need to do these any more, because we just can find any (cancer).’ ” Lindeblad said. “Even when I first heard the news, I didn’t know how to feel.
“You think a certain way for 12 years and something like that changes, it takes awhile to figure out how you should feel then. And in my case, it may take another 12 years, at least, if I’m lucky.”
As strange as their player-caddy relationship might seem, it has lasted longer, perhaps, than any in the history of the Rosauers Open.
“I don’t know for sure how long we’ve done this, but I’ve caddied for him every year he’s played in the Rosauers since he turned pro right out of college,” Curly Rousseau said of Robert Gray, a former collegiate standout at Washington State, who just finished his 10th season as the golf coach at Gonzaga University.
Not only are the two separated in age by nearly 22 years, but they share vastly different college allegiances, as well.
Rousseau, who will turn 60 in November, was an NAIA All-American pitcher for Eastern Washington University in the early 1970s and served five years and two different stints as president of EWU’s Eagle Athletic Association.
When he caddies for Gray, he proudly wear a red and white golf shirt adorned with an Eastern logo.
“I’m always wearing my Eagles shirt and carrying his Zags bag,” Rousseau said. “And those colors don’t go well together.”
Still, Rousseau said he considers the 38-year-old Gray, whom he first met 22 years ago when they were paired together in the Esmeralda Amateur, one of the finest young men he’s known – “even though he’s a Zag.
“Everybody has a cross to bear,” Rousseau said. “And that just happens to be Robert’s.”
Gray, a graduate of West Valley High School, shot an even-par 71 in Friday’s opening round of this year’s Rosauers Open.
“We did alright,” Rousseau said. “And I’ve told him that if he makes it into one of the final four groups on Sunday, I’ll break down and wear a Gonzaga shirt.
“But I also told him he’s going to have to buy it, because I sure don’t own one.”
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