Senior Tour gets Baltimore connection

February 13, 1994|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Sun Staff Writer

It's not a tournament, but the Senior PGA Tour now has a link with Baltimore.

The tour has joined with the locally based American Foundation for Urologic Disease for a "Keep Your Health Up To Par" campaign aimed at educating the public about prostate health.

The AFUD was founded in 1987, prompted by a need to make health research and public awareness separate and distinct from the American Urological Association, which primarily is for doctors/surgeons.

"Our target market is men over 50, and we have determined that 41.5 percent of the spectators at Senior tour events are aged 46 and over," said Thomas M. Bruckman, AFUD executive director.

As the result of discussions, the Senior PGA Tour has taken this campaign under its wing, marking

the first time it has supported a national health-related awareness program.

"Actually, the Senior Tour provides its name and serves as an umbrella, but it is the individual local sponsors at each of the tournaments who provide the vehicle for awareness," said Tim Crosby, director of sponsor services for the Senior Tour.

"The Senior Tour sponsors group embraced the concept, and it is they who will be handling the 'awareness' at each tournament site."

The campaign, announced last week at the tour's GTE Suncoast Classic stop in Tampa, Fla., features Jim Ferree, Bruce Devlin and Chi Chi Rodriguez, each of whom has personal reasons for serving as a spokesman.

Ferree was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1991 but it has been effectively treated; Devlin recently was diagnosed as having a noncancerous prostate condition for which he is receiving treatment; and Rodriguez, well-known for his philanthropy through a youth foundation in his native Puerto Rico, has expressed concern about health issues affecting men.

"The key thing is getting the PSA [prostate specific antigen] test. That's one used to help diagnose prostate cancer," Devlin said during a conversation after the announcement.

"Through awareness, if you save a life, it's worth it. Now, we think we can save hundreds and thousands of lives by making men aware, even if there are none of the symptoms."

Before being tested, Devlin was getting up five or six times in the night to go to the bathroom. "I felt as though my symptoms were controlling my life. After seeing a doctor and getting the diagnosis, I have been able, through drug therapy and being careful of my liquid intake, to have a much better lifestyle."

Devlin, 56, won 16 tournaments worldwide, including eight PGA Tourtournaments during a 25-year career after coming to the United States from his native Australia at age 24.

Along the way, he got into golf course design and did some television commentary. A Houston resident, he plays the Senior Tour on a limited basis.

He has two courses under construction in Australia and is headed there after the conclusion of play today in Tampa. "Overall, I go back and forth nine or 10 times a year."

The situation for Ferree, 62, a 23-year PGA Tour veteran, who joined the Seniors in 1981, was more dramatic.

In Albuquerque, N.M., in the fall of 1991, the tour player was encouraged by a doctor friend to see him for a PSA test. The diagnosis was prostate cancer.

There were 35 radiation treatments in the next seven weeks that left him weakened during the 1992 season. However, he returned last year to have his best season as a professional, earning $424,333 on the Senior Tour and an additional $255,550 from the Vantage Classics, a separate competition for those 60-over.

In recognition of his comeback from a major disaster to play golf again, the Golf Writers Association of America honored him with its Ben Hogan Award.

Bruckman, with a background in national health care, came to Baltimore from Cleveland last fall.

"We thought this particular condition [prostate cancer] had been overlooked, and we wanted a national campaign so that we could get awareness up to the same level as the science and medicine," he said recently.

"In 1994, it is estimated more than 165,000 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 35,000 will die from it. Is it any wonder we are actively campaigning for public awareness?"

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