17 October 2019

EXCLUSIVE: Scottish golfer Heather MacRae on her battle with cancer, her Solheim Cup joy, and her passion for golf

Scottish golfer Heather MacRae has said Europe's 'special' Solheim Cup victory has inspired her as she continues her comeback following cancer surgery.

The 36-year-old was diagnosed after going for a routine screening back in January, but continued to both play professionally and teach amateurs.

And in May, just two short weeks before she was heading to the hospital for an hysterectomy, she won the PGA Players' Championship for a second time.

“Winning it is probably one of my best achievements," she said.

"I’ve won other professional tournaments but with everything going on, with the situation, handling it how I did, when I look back I’ll always be pretty proud of that."

The win meant that MacRae qualified for the Great Britain and Ireland team which will compete against the US, Canada, Sweden and Australia in the inaugural Women's PGA Cup in Texas next week.

Securing a place in that event was the goal for the Scot at the start of the year before her health problems, so now it was a case of ensuring she beat the disease.

One of her lowest points was heading straight to her brother's following the diagnosis and having to tell her family she had cervical cancer.

“Telling people that you’re close to is the hardest part," she said.

"When I was told I didn’t find it as hard because it was me and I could deal with it, but telling them was harder."

However, the operation was deemed a success by doctors and then just a few weeks ago she received the news she was waiting to hear.

“I had my three-month follow-up just a few weeks ago which was all clear and that was a big relief.

“I needed to be told four or five times ‘yes, it’s actually fine’. You have a lot of doubts in your head - is it really fine? Is it really all away? What if it comes back?

“But a few weeks ago the first follow-up was fine. We’ll do that every six months for the next five years and then hopefully it’s all good."

In what has been a staggeringly quick comeback, MacRae competed at the Golfbreaks.com PGA Fourball Championship final at the end of August and then travelled north to take in the Solheim Cup.

And after running a Pro-Am event on the Tuesday to raise money for charity, she settled down to watch a captivating weekend of action which ended with Suzann Pettersen's winning putt on the final hole.

“It was definitely inspiring," she said.

“Being on that 18th green on Sunday afternoon when Pettersen held that putt was one of those moments that people talk about for years. We were there and got to watch it."

Suzann Pettersen celebrates her Solheim Cup-winning putt on the 18th hole (PA Images)

Pettersen retired after the triumph and MacRae admitted the Swede's 'fairytale ending' was something which motivates her to carry on playing.

“If you watch that and you don’t want to play golf then you put your clubs away," she added.

“A couple of years ago I didn’t think I would be playing so much. As I get older I thought I’d just focus more on the teaching, but life is short and I love competing, travelling, and I still think I can play to a good level.

“As long as I think like that I’d still like to have a go at it."

She is adamant her illness has not drastically changed the way she views the importance of golf, but has certainly had the effect of bringing her closer to her family.

“In the back of my mind somewhere playing golf will not be quite as intense, but I’m a pretty stubborn and determined person so it’s not like I’m going to go out and think ‘it’s fine, it’s only golf’."

Her self-professed 'love-life attitude' is something which fuels her passion to both play and teach the sport and she aims to continue to do both for the foreseeable future.

“My job is playing golf and teaching golf. It’s what I love to do. When I’m not working, I'll go out and play golf with my friends. I’ve always done what I wanted to do, I’ve been fortunate enough to do that. 

"It’s not like I wake up and think ‘I’ve got to go to work today’, I get to do something I enjoy.

“You read stories about athletes going from being full-time athletes to transitioning back into the real world, it can be really difficult. So from that point of view it’s nice that I can do a little bit of both because at some point down the line all I will do is teach.

“When I come back after next week I’ll have a sit down and think of where I’m going playing-wise, teaching-wise, see what I can do to ensure I can do a bit of both."

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