On April 6, 2011, Barbara Douglas, the immediate past chairman of the USGA Women’s Committee, received the Ben Hogan Award from the Golf Writers Association of America at its annual dinner before the Masters Tournament. The annual award is given to an individual who has continued to be active in golf despite a physical handicap or serious illness. It has been won by, among others, Babe Zaharias, Ken Venturi, Patty Berg, Calvin Peete and Paul Azinger. The following is Douglas’ acceptance speech. Douglas, the first African American to chair the USGA Women's Committee, died on Jan. 27, 2012.
Thank you very much. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
I cannot think of words to describe how honored I feel to be selected for this prestigious award, the Ben Hogan Award. To have my name associated with the great Ben Hogan, as well as the other honorees, like Babe Zaharias, Patty Berg, Lee Trevino, Bruce Edwards, what an honor! Know that this goes down as one of the highlights of my life.
Let me also congratulate the other honorees for their outstanding accomplishments.
In February 2009 at the USGA Annual Meeting, I had a dream come true when I was appointed chairman of the USGA Women’s Committee, one of the most prestigious positions in golf. So, the year was off to a wonderful start. I was feeling great and I was looking forward to my duties as chairman.
And then, on March 2, my world changed when I was diagnosed with stage-4 ovarian cancer. As you can imagine, my world came crashing down. Two days later I saw my oncologist, Dr. Mike Janicek, and two days after that I underwent a 5½-hour surgery.
From diagnosis to surgery, I did not have a lot of time to think. I was not sure what was going through my mind but throughout my life I have always had a positive attitude about life – about everything – and I think that prevailed in this case. I woke up from surgery asking my doctor about my attending the U.S. Women’s Open Media Day, scheduled to take place in May.
Charles Swindoll, an American writer and clergyman, says, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it.”
My positive attitude has been the key to my successfully handling and dealing with cancer. I decided that I would put my health in the hands of my oncologist, Dr. Janicek, and his team. I would faithfully follow their instructions, but I would not let “the big C” control my life. They would handle the medical side and I set out about the business of creating a routine that was as close to normal as possible.
My duties as chairman of the USGA Women’s Committee required a tremendous output of energy and attention to detail. Plus, I had responsibilities as president of the Junior Golf Association of Arizona and as a board member of the Arizona Golf Foundation; clearly enough to keep me busy and take my mind off the negative side of my condition and effects of the chemotherapy treatments, which started just a few weeks after surgery. My challenge was to schedule the treatments around the travel and meetings of the three associations.
Contrary to the advice of my well-meaning friends and family, I refused to stay in bed or take it easy. Over the past two years, I have fulfilled my responsibilities at the U.S. Women’s Opens at Saucon Valley and Oakmont; two Women’s Amateurs, in St. Louis and Charlotte; two U.S. Opens, the Curtis Cup and the World Amateur Team Championship, along with the scheduled USGA planning meetings, as well as my other obligations with junior golf and the Arizona Golf Foundation.
Getting up every day was not necessarily easy. I didn’t always feel the greatest, but my attitude and focus on the positives kept me going. It fueled my fire and gave me the wherewithal to get up and get going.
I would be disingenuous were I to say that there have not been difficult times, because there have been and there are still challenges. I have been undergoing chemotherapy since April 2009 – and those little buggers are still alive and hanging on. But last week I had good news, the new drug is working, so here’s hoping we have finally hit upon the right one.
Today I am a stronger person. I look at life differently. Things that once were important now are insignificant. I am a more confident person and a more humble individual as a result of the medical challenges that I have faced.
And so, I close these remarks by saying to you, none of us knows what the future will bring, but all of us can take solace in the knowledge that no matter what the challenge, if our attitudes are positive, we can take control and have the strength to journey on with dignity, with the help and support of a loving family and good friends.
Let me end by thanking my family, my many golf friends from across the country for your prayers and support. And a special thank you to my friends and family who are here tonight to share this very special moment.And then there is Bob Tomisak, who has been by my side every step of the way. Thank you, for your support and your love.
Thank you and good evening, ladies and gentlemen.