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Barclay Howard needs treatment for leukaemia

By Mark Garrod, PA Sport Golf Correspondent

Scotland - Barclay Howard, the Scottish amateur golf star diagnosed in September as suffering from leukaemia, goes back into hospital on February 2 for a bone marrow transplant with his sister Morag.

The discovery that she is a match has given Howard hope that, following the most worrying months of his life, he might even be able to play a part in this year's Open championship.

It was at Royal Troon last July that the 44-year-old Walker Cup player really made a name for himself. His name was on the leaderboard for two days and although he fell back to 60th place - alongside Jack Nicklaus - he collected the coveted silver medal as leading amateur.

With the help of Alcoholics Anonymous Howard had reached the pinnacle of his career. But within a month he had started feeling ill and then came the shock diagnosis.

"I was shattered," he recalls. "I thought it was the end. I went from the highest point of my life to the lowest.

"You could have knocked me down with a feather. The last few years of my life have just been getting better and better and then all of a sudden this.

"But the doctors have been brilliant. I've had the chemotherapy treatment and when they started to look for a match for the bone marrow transplant Morag was the first member of my family to go in for tests.

"It's brilliant news. There's a young girl up here in Scotland who's had to advertise in the hope of finding somebody.

"I go in first for radium treatment and then three days later I'll get the transplant. I'm told that I should be in hospital for two to four weeks and then the recovery time is anything from three months to a year if all goes well.

"My target is definitely the Open in July. I want to be down at Southport trying to qualify.

"This is a challenge again and you have to try to keep going. I hope this transplant will turn the corner for me.

"You've just got to be hopeful and stay positive. People have been tremendous - I've had over 200 letters and cards, some of them with 50 signatures on them.

"It's things like that that keep you going. There was even a nice fax sent by Open champion Justin Leonard wishing me all the best." Leonard mentioned Howard in his victory speech at Troon.

"I got such a buzz at the Open I could have walked across water. I've played in a few pro tournaments, but that's different class."

Howard was a member of the Walker Cup side that beat Tiger Woods and company at Porthcawl in 1995, but the first signs that he was not well came when they lost the trophy in New York last August.

He asked to be left out of one session because he felt so tired, but put it down at the time to the fact that the squad had practised intensively for a week before the match.

"I knew I was not 100%, but then things got worse and worse." After returning home early from the US Amateur he found climbing the stairs left him totally out of breath and an X-ray and then biopsy revealed the leukaemia.

PA Sporting Life