Cancer could have killed him.
Steve Thompson had dozens of reasons to beat the disease.
Golf is one.
"I'd go out into the garage and pick up a club," Thompson said. "The doctor told me, 'Don't swing. Don't do anything until you're off chemo.'"
He didn't listen.
Thompson, while still under the influence of crippling drugs, often walked to his garage, grabbed a club from his bag, took his stance and practiced the first part of his backswing.
"I'd get out there, pick it up, get squared-up," he said. "Not for just five minutes. But for like an hour.
"I didn't want to feel bad. Even though the chemo and radiation made you feel bad, I din't want to feel bad."
Golf, just gripping a club, made Thompson feel good.
"Golf pushed me through," he said of his experience about three years ago. "I don't give up on anything. If there's a challenge, I'm going to try and beat it."
Thompson, 59, accepted the challenge of playing golf about 13 years ago. His son-in-law dragged him to a driving range.
"He said, 'Let's hit a few,'" Thompson recalled. "I hit a few good, I hit a few bad and wondered what I was doing wrong."
He accepted the challenge of golf before facing the challenge of Hodgkin's lymphoma under his right arm. Before the diagnosis, he grew to love the game and the test it presents every year, every month, every day and every hole.
"We used to live on a golf course, so I'd got out there in the evenings and I'd take a bunch of balls," he said. "Then I'd start hitting them."
Then the diagnosis of cancer came to him.
"I had to give up golf," said Thompson, who breaks 80 on a good day. "Dr. [Michael] Stipanov said, 'I can tell you're not going to sit still.'"
Instead, he practiced.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...