USGA GOLF JOURNAL
Hoffmann Refuses to Concede Despite Life-Changing Diagnosis
January 24, 2019
By Joey Flyntz, USGA
Many of us are affected by disease at some point in our lives, and it’s natural to wonder how we would react to the situation. Imagine facing that stark reality as a 27-year-old professional athlete at the seeming peak of his prowess.
Budding golf star Morgan Hoffmann has had to do just that. A college standout at Oklahoma State University – at one time he was the No. 1 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ – and a member of the victorious 2009 USA Walker Cup Team, Hoffmann was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in November 2016 following a frustrating five-year search for answers.
Hoffmann’s response to the grim news immediately captured the imagination of the golf world and created a blueprint for everyone facing similar challenges. He announced his diagnosis in a Dec. 4, 2017 story in The Players’ Tribune headlined “So Damn Lucky” that reflected his positive, inspirational viewpoint. While he admitted it took a couple of weeks to get past the initial “why me” questions, Hoffmann soon pivoted to positivity.
“I always wake up and try to ask myself a question: Do I want to be happy today, or do I want to be unhappy?” he said last August. “Why would you want to be unhappy?”
That’s easier said than done, considering that muscular dystrophy is a degenerative disease with limited and expensive treatment options. Hoffmann, now 29, has facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), which affects the face and shoulder muscles.
The diagnosis required a break from professional golf to begin treatment. But Hoffmann had no use for idle time and self-pity. He formed the Morgan Hoffmann Foundation, which promotes fundraising for a cure as well as programs that empower those fighting chronic diseases to live longer and more fulfilling lives.
“I knew that I could help a lot of people from this. Going forward, I wanted to make a change in people’s lives,” said Hoffmann. “I thought I could with this platform of being on the PGA Tour.”
That platform provided the impetus for the foundation’s biggest fundraiser to date: the inaugural Morgan Hoffmann Foundation Celebrity Pro-Am on Aug. 20, 2018 at Arcola Country Club in Paramus, N.J. A Wyckoff, N.J., native, Hoffmann grew up playing with his father at Arcola, so the family-like atmosphere that permeated the day was genuine.
Golfers, sponsors and fans showed up to support Hoffmann, highlighted by some of the game’s top players – Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau, Bryson DeChambeau, Michelle Wie, Keegan Bradley, Charley Hoffman, Charles Howell III, Peter Uihlein and Kevin Tway among them. Donations, combined with fun on-course fundraising activities, made for a financially successful and gratifying day.
“It’s fantastic. This is what golf is all about,” said DeChambeau, the 2015 U.S. Amateur champion and a five-time winner on the PGA Tour. “It creates friendships for life. That’s what I love about the game of golf. It brings everyone together in a unique and great way.”
Hoffmann returned to competition on Jan. 13 for the Web.com Tour’s season-opening event, The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay. The first challenge could not have gone much better, as Hoffmann improved every round to finish in a tie for 24th at 7-under 281, highlighted by a final-round 68. The next test figures to be more daunting as Hoffmann, playing on a major medical exemption, returns to the PGA Tour for this week’s Farmers Insurance Open at 2021 U.S. Open host site Torrey Pines in San Diego, Calif.
No matter what he shoots at Torrey Pines and throughout the rest of the season, Hoffmann is raising awareness and drawing accolades.
“Morgan’s rise in the golf world is a remarkable feat for anyone – and an even more impressive feat for someone to accomplish who is living with neuromuscular disease,” said Kristin Stephenson, MHA, a senior vice president for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. “Morgan’s focus and determination to increase awareness about muscular dystrophy while continuing to pursue his passion with golf is an inspiration and an accomplishment that we can all look to as an example. For someone living with a degenerative muscle disease like muscular dystrophy, everything that tasks the muscles requires more effort, which makes what Morgan is doing even more impressive.”
Through rain and shine, thick and thin, the game will benefit from the reemergence of Hoffmann’s trademark smile and positive outlook.
Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.