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Women’s Golf Tournament at Rancho Park : Bradley Is a Lot Happier One Year Later

<i> Times Staff Writer</i>

It will be year ago Tuesday that Pat Bradley was diagnosed as having hyperthyroidism, commonly known as Graves’ disease.

She had been embarrassed and ashamed for failing to make the cut in the AI Star/Centinela Hospital golf tournament.

Here was a probable future Hall of Fame golfer, who suddenly was playing poorly, and she didn’t know why she was deteriorating physically.

However, in a heart-warming comeback story, Bradley’s condition has now stabilized and she reaffirmed her status on the LPGA tour Sunday by winning the AI Star/Centinela Hospital tournament by one stroke over Nancy Lopez and Hollis Stacy, who shared second place.

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Bradley shot a final round 67 at Rancho Park for a 54-hole total of 208 and earned $67,500 for her victory.

She acknowledges that the money is nice but the victory, considering her previous turmoil, meant everything to her.

“Last year I think I shot an 82 and then an 87 when I missed the cut and I just snuck off the course and out of my hotel and I wanted to hide,” Bradley said. “Here I am a year later on top of the world and very thankful that I’ve been given a second chance.”

Bradley, who has 23 career victories since starting on the tour in 1974, hadn’t won since 1987.

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“The rest of that year and 1988 were pure hell,” she said.

“Graves’ disease affects your hormones and nervous system. Your hormones are out of whack,” Bradley said. “My body would tremble and my hands were always in a tremor and my heart was racing 100 miles an hour.”

Bradley consulted a doctor in Dallas after she left the tournament here last year and he diagnosed her condition and treatment began.

By December she was ready to play again.

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After Bradley parred the 18th hole Sunday, an emotional scene soon developed.

First, though, she had to sweat out Lopez, who was playing one hole behind her.

“I knew if anyone could birdie the last hole it would be Nancy,” Bradley said.

But Lopez could only par the 18th after missing a 20-foot birdie putt that would have forced a playoff.

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When Bradley’s victory was assured, she tearfully embraced her mother, Kathleen. Her father, Dick, died in 1988 and that had added to the trauma she was already enduring with her physical condition.

Bradley said, though, that her father was with her.

“He saw more golf today than when he was alive,” she said. “I know that he was feeling for me. When I was ill, it was eating at him the last two years.”

There was always a ritual in the Bradley home in Westford, Mass., after she placed first. Someone in the family would ring a bell on the porch of their home in that small town to signify another Bradley victory.

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Although her mother was with her Sunday, the bell was rung again.

Bradley said she called her brothers, Chris, Mark and John, who continued the tradition Sunday night.

“It was a very emotional day,” Bradley said. “When Nancy missed that putt and I was finally able to relax and reflect on the last two years that have have been really hell for me.

“One year you’re on cloud nine and everything is going your way and the next year you’re at the bottom of the totem pole and you can’t even find yourself.

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“That’s not only tough, but it hurts. Before, the harder I tried the worse things got. I was very ashamed and very embarrassed at the numbers I was posting, especially after 1986 when I was on top of the LPGA (five victories that year including three of the four majors).

“I thought I was having a nervous breakdown and they were coming to take me away. It was at this tournament a year ago that I packed it in.

“Up until I was diagnosed I thought I was losing my mind and falling apart. What a difference a year makes.”

Of all her victories, and she has won six majors in her career, the 38-year-old Bradley said that her lastest victory is “very, very satisfying.”

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“Basically, I had been written off,” she said. “I had been protected quite a bit in my years on the tour. I never experienced missing many cuts, or shooting a lot of high numbers, or not qualifying for tournaments.

“All of a sudden, through an illness, I was so far back in the pack that reality struck and I wasn’t eligible for any of those things. I learned you’re only as good for the minute.

“I learned that your 15 years of being in the top ten and the record of winning those majors meant nothing. If you’re not within a certain framework on this tour, you’re out. And that was very hard to swallow.”

There were tears in Bradley’s eyes as she relived the past and she’s very grateful now that she has been given a second chance.

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