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PGA Tour winner says he'll play on while battling Parkinson's

November 25, 2023
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Australian senior tour pro John Senden says he can have a satisfying warm-up session before a competitive round, “but as soon as the anticipation of hitting the first shot or a difficult shot or even the name called on the first tee, all of a sudden my right arm starts shaking and I can’t control that sometimes.”

That’s an extremely challenging way to play golf, of course, and the 52-year-old two-time PGA Tour winner has been doing so for the last 18 months with symptoms associated with his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. In an interview with Australia’s ABC Sport, Senden said he has no plans to stop playing.

“I’ve got to stay in the gym, stay fit and stay open, because Parkinson’s wants to close you down, wants to make you feel a bit more depressed,” Senden said. “I’ve got to stay playing, stay light-hearted about everything. It doesn’t actually undermine my strength; it just sort of makes me feel a bit weird sometimes. … “It’s not going to go away, but I’m still able to play and still enjoying golf.”

This is not the first serious health issue in Senden’s immediate family. In 2017, his then-13-year-old son, Jacob, was diagnosed with brain cancer. Senden played the next two seasons on a Major Medical Extension under the tour’s family crisis provision, but he eventually had to use Past Champions and 300 PGA Tour cuts made status to continue to compete.

Jacob, 19, is now doing well and caddied for his dad this week in the DP World Tour’s Australian PGA Championship, where John Senden missed the cut by one stroke.

“There was some time back then when we didn’t know whether he was going to make it,” Senden told the Australia PGA’s website this week. “Being together this week has definitely been an inspiration for me especially, and for other kids out there watching him grow over the last six years. He’s got stronger and stronger every year with great doctors and great medical in the U.S. and also another couple of doctors out here in Australia.

“He’s been looking good and feeling like he needs to take it by the horns now and go and live his life.”

Senden’s PGA Tour wins came in the 2006 John Deere and 2014 Valspar Championship, and he also captured the 2007 Australian Open. On PGA Tour Champions, Senden has made 51 starts, notching one top-10 finish. He played 19 times this past season, posting one top-25 while finishing 83rd in the season-long standings.