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Now Myers Really Has Reason to Smile

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Women’s golf found a new champion Sunday and her name is Terry-Jo Myers. Thirteen years after she was diagnosed with an incurable bladder disease and five years after it nearly caused her to take her life, Myers did something she thought she might not be able to do again.

She won a golf tournament.

Myers won the Los Angeles Women’s Championship when she closed with a six-under-par 66 at Oakmont Country Club to beat Annika Sorenstam by two shots.

Actually, it was a victory over a far more formidable opponent.

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“I’m lucky, very lucky,” said Myers, 34, from Florida.

Myers also beat interstitial cystitis, a disease that for 11 years forced her to go to the bathroom as many as 60 times a day and caused so much pain in her bladder, she said she felt as though there were dozens of paper cuts inside.

All the while, Myers kept playing golf. She even won a tournament in 1988, but she is convinced it never would have happened if not for two long rain delays that allowed her to go to the bathroom.

But the pain never went away. She reached her low point in 1992 when she won $13,587 in 25 events and it was even worse off the course.

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One dark night in November, Myers couldn’t stand it any more.

“I had the knife out in the kitchen and I walked into my daughter’s bedroom to say goodbye,” she said. “But seeing her, I realized I couldn’t leave her alone.”

Taylor-Jo Myers is 7 now and her mother is a winner.

She has had a lot of help. Two years ago, Myers began taking a new drug called Elmiron that is not a cure, but did eliminate the symptoms. But on the golf course, Myers had to start over again.

“I had learned how to play in pain and forgotten how to concentrate,” she said.

She had to find her mental toughness again if things were going to work out. Myers knew there would be a test, or hoped for one anyway.

It came Sunday on the 16th hole where she pulled her drive into some trees.

She had a two-shot lead over Sorenstam that was in jeopardy.

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This time, she didn’t hesitate. She saw a way out, lifted a nine-iron over the trees, landed the ball 18 feet from the hole and then putted it in for a birdie.

For Myers, that shot probably was the end of the beginning.

“It was kind of chancy, but I thought I could do it with the momentum I had going,” she said.

Five shots behind Sorenstam when the round began, Myers’ second consecutive 66 was worth $97,500--more money than she had made in any year in her career.

Myers’ 74-66-66 total of 206 was 10 under par.

All Sorenstam needed was to shoot a 70, which would have been her worst round, but she could do no better than a one-over-par 73 and a 54-hole score of 208.

Her problem was putting. Never have so many golf balls had more excuses for staying out of the holes--they were afraid of the dark . . . the holes made them claustrophobic . . . they had a fear of falling.

“I really don’t know what happened,” Sorenstam said. “My putter today was just totally off. Every time I had a two-footer, I’d get some kind of spasm in my arms.

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“I can’t explain it. It just kind of happened.”

Alicia Dibos finished with a 67 and moved into a five-way tie for third at 211 with Kelly Robbins, Catrin Nilsmark, Donna Andrews and Ellie Gibson.

Emilee Klein’s homecoming--her parents are members at Oakmont--was a tie for eighth place when she closed with a 70.

Myers needed to wind it up, which she did, but not without shedding a few tears. She said she began weeping on the 16th green.

Afterward, Sorenstam said she was happy for Myers.

“I saw her crying,” she said. “It’s nice to see someone who wins who is so emotional.”

Once that last putt dropped into the last hole on the last day, Myers could let go. It was the end of a long journey, one she was never sure would finish this way.

“There is a lesson here,” she said. “I suppose it is to not give up. But these are tough time for people with chronic diseases. It’s tough when you are living on the other side of the wall. I’ve been there.”

And for at least one day, she is somewhere else, a place for which she is grateful.

“I could have come in second and I would have been just as happy,” she said.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Top Finishers

LOS ANGELES WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP

(at Oakmont Country Club--Par 72)

Terry-Jo Myers: 74-66-66--206

Annika Sorenstam: 66-69-73--208

Alicia Dibos: 71-73-67--211

Kelly Robbins: 73-69-69--211

Catrin Nilsmark: 73-69-69--211

Donna Andrews: 68-73-70--211

Ellie Gibson: 69-69-73--211

Jane Geddes: 71-72-69--212

Emilee Klein: 70-72-70--212

Liselotte Neumann: 71-70-71--212

Amy Fruhwirth: 70-71-71--212

Michelle Dobek: 73-72-68--213

Lorie Kane: 70-73-70--213

Jenny Lidback: 70-71-72--213

* COMPLETE SCORES, C13


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