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Hubert Green prepares for cancer surgery

The way Hubert Green tells it, he's just teed off in a "nine-hole match with the devil."

His opponent is the throat cancer that has attached itself to his left tonsil and the back of his tongue. Two months from now, after undergoing radiation and chemotherapy, Green will have a better idea of what the score is.

The 17-time PGA Tour champion was diagnosed with stage four cancer in May. He had gone for a routine teeth cleaning when the dentist noticed something unusual and suggested Green see an ear, nose and throat specialist.

The specialist confirmed the worst fears of Green's dentist. Subsequent tests, though, have shown that the cancer has not spread to the 56-year-old's lymph nodes or any other organs.

"This is not exactly the way I had planned to spend my summer," Green said. "I had planned on going fishing with my kids."

Instead, Green will begin treatment at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Fla., in two weeks. First, though, he's playing this week at the Farmers Charity Classic and in the United State Senior Open.

"If I wasn't playing right now, I'd probably be at home feeling sorry for myself," said Green, who insists he's not scared. "But I'm not playing that bad golf, so I'll go out and make some money to pay the doctors."


Hubert Green holds four career Champions Tour titles. (Getty Images)
Green will undergo six weeks of IMRT treatment, a specialized form of radiation that is more site specific and focuses seven to 10 beams in the tumor. By using this procedure, doctors hope to save the salivary gland on the right side of his mouth.

For the first three weeks, Green will put on a mask to protect the rest of his face and undergo 15 minutes of radiation daily, as well as a low dose of chemotherapy once a week. The radiation will be stepped up to twice daily for the last 12 treatments.

Green, who says he has talked to many throat cancer survivors, hopes to return to playing golf on the Champions Tour as soon as his treatment is over. He's just not sure that's realistic.

"I don't know what I'll feel like," the former U.S. Open and PGA champion admitted. "You don't get a practice round in a game like this. People tell me I won't feel too well."

Green has kept a sense of humor about his situation, though. On his website, www.hubertgreen.com, the Florida State graduate says he "trusts the Gators" at Shands Hospital, which is affiliated with the University of Florida, to help him beat the cancer.

Green and his wife, Michelle, decided to create the website at the suggestion of Penny Wadkins, Lanny's wife, who had friends going through a similar situation. The Greens plan to update the site with information on Hubert's condition, and there is an e-mail forum.

"This will keep Michelle from having to go through the hole-by-hole excitement of Hubert's chemo," when friends call, Green said.

The support Green has gotten from his fellow pros on the Champions Tour and PGA Tour has been very important to him. Players have called to tell him they're thinking about him. They've stopped him on the putting green and in the locker room.

"One guy called and thought he was going to get my voice mail," Green said. "I answered and he said he didn't know what to say. I told him you can't say the wrong thing. You called because you care.

"Another guy told me he wasn't real close to the Lord right now. He said, "He probably doesn't know who I am. But I am going to call him up tonight and say a few words for you.'"

Green isn't particularly comfortable getting headlines right now. "I'd rather be interviewed for shooting 65 than having cancer," he said. "My deal is playing golf. The guys who win should be getting the fanfare."

He'll endure the interviews, though, and he'll talk about his illness. Then Green will focus on his treatment the same way he used to stare down opponents on the golf course.

"Things could be worse," Green said. "You can go to St. Jude (Children's Hospital) and see 5- and 6-year-old kids with no hair and a smile on their face. And you know they won't be there next year.

"I'm 56. I haven't had a bad life. This is the hand I've been dealt, and I am going to play to win."

 

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