When Marnie McGuire walks out on the golf course, her biggest opponent is not a gaping fairway bunker, a nasty tree guarding the green, or a break you can't see until you stroke the putt. It's also not the collection of the best women golfers in the world that she competes against at each LPGA tournament.
McGuire has to battle the sun - and win - before she can accomplish anything else.
The 32-year-old fair-skinned New Zealander had the deadliest form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, when she was 19. Every day of her life, fighting off the sun is the first - and most important - move she makes.
“The dermatologist who found the cancer told me to protect myself, or go find a new job,” McGuire said.
So on blistering hot days like yesterday, McGuire wears a long sleeved shirt, a big floppy hat, and long slacks. She puts on plenty of sunscreen, and then uses an umbrella throughout the round.
“I know what I have to do, and I've been taking these precautions for so long that it's just part of the normal preparation - even on cloudy days,” McGuire said. “I won't go to the course without my clubs, and I don't go without protecting myself from the sun. I know when I'm out there, nothing is getting through.”
McGuire, who shot a closing 65 yesterday to finish the Farr at 273, 11-under par and four shots behind winner Se Ri Pak, experienced the skin cancer scare while she was attending Oklahoma State University, where she was a first-team All-American.
“I was lucky, very lucky that they discovered it early enough,” McGuire said. “When you get news like that, everything else stops around you. Thankfully, they got it in time, but something like that really jolts you. It's your life they're talking about.”
McGuire spent five years on the Japanese LPGA tour before qualifying for the U.S. tour in 1998. She said that her experience in Japan gave her the mettle to compete against the best players in the world in this country.
“Japan was difficult because of the language and cultural differences, but it toughened me up. It gave me a certain stick-ability so I could play through the lows and weather the rough days. I didn't come straight out here after college, and that was a smart move because I wasn't ready. In 1998, I felt like I was ready.”
McGuire has more than $300,000 in career earnings to date, and made $60,384 with her tie for third in the Farr. A second place in the 1999 Giant Eagle LPGA Classic is her best finish on the LPGA Tour. McGuire won the Australian Women's Open in 1998, and had four wins on the tour in Japan.
She has a home in Sarasota, Fla., and spends about two months each year in her native New Zealand when the LPGA season ends. She said the protective clothing she always wears is light enough that she can play comfortably, even on the hottest days.
“I'll keep playing,” McGuire said. “I know what I have to do to be safe out here, and I do it. Once you've had skin cancer, you learn every way there is to avoid the sun - and still play golf.”