Play at the 2018 AT&T Byron Nelson officially begins on Thursday, but make no mistake, plenty of meaningful golf has been taking place in the days leading up to the Dallas tournament, which is now in its 50th year. At the helm of the biggest pre-tournament round? PGA TOUR pro Hunter Mahan and his wife, Kandi.
The couple organized the Mahan Foundation Match Play at Trinity Forest Golf Club to help fund research for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) at MD Anderson Cancer Center, and to increase awareness for the nationwide search for bone marrow donors.
Their inspiration? Katie’s sister, Kandi Enloe, a mother to two young girls, who was diagnosed with AML in mid-January. Her husband, Jason Enloe, is the head coach of Southern Methodist University’s men’s golf team.
“We knew a few weeks [after her diagnosis], we wanted to do an event or something to help with her cause, and help the cause of so many suffering from this cancer,” Hunter explained before Tuesday’s 9-hole par 3 contest that had fellow pros like Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar teeing off. “It’s been a difficult process in so many ways, but it’s something my wife and I are really super passionate about.”
The event, which drew local athletes, celebrities and supporters, also had Be The Match on site, which is the nation’s leader in bone marrow transplants.
“Hopefully, we’ll get a bunch of people to sign up (and get their cheeks swabbed) because when you do, you are saving a life,” Hunter said.
According to a May 11 update on the family’s YouCaring page, Katie’s fight has been grueling because the disease has recently spread to her spine.
“She is currently unable to walk or get out of bed & half of her body is going numb,” the update reads. “Her leukemia is very aggressive and is moving much faster than the chemo is able to work. Doctors are planning to stop chemo and start radiation tomorrow….Her doctors are still hopeful and have seen this happen before, and they have treated this type of case successfully!”
She will continue to receive treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston during the AT&T Byron Nelson while Jason, who has remained in Dallas to work and keep their daughters’ lives as normal as possible, will be out on the links-style course with a good group of friends supporting his brother-in-law.
“I think it’s going to be a respite from all the worry and [he’ll] have a little bit of joy this week,” Hunter said.
As for how the last five months has affected Hunter and Kandi?
“It’s made my wife and I just appreciate the little things more; taking the kids to school, picking them up and spending time with them,” Hunter said. “And it refocuses you on the important things in life.”
The important things, like what goes on well before the PGA TOUR’s highest-grossing charity tournament kicks off.
If you’re interested in joining the national bone marrow registry on Katie Enloe’s behalf, visit Join.bethematch.org/KatieStrong.