McPherson gains from pain

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:04 PM ET

Kristy McPherson calls it "the best thing that ever happened to me."

Not exactly the way you'd expect somebody to describe being diagnosed with a life-changing condition, but McPherson, an LPGA Tour regular who grew up dreaming of becoming a star on the baseball diamond or basketball court, is a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.

"I never thought I'd be playing professional golf, that's for sure," McPherson said. "I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when I was 11 and it took about a year to learn how to walk again and to get started again, and after that, I tried to go back to team sports and it was too tough on my body.

"My dad literally carried me to the golf course. I didn't like it. I thought it was boring and I like to yell and scream and jump around, but it turns out I grew a great passion for it. It turned out to be, literally, the best thing that ever happened to me.

"I wouldn't have it any other way."

These days, McPherson spends almost as much time at the golf course as she does away from it.

Although her arthritis occasionally flares up on cold, rainy days, the 28-year-old has served notice she can hold her own against the LPGA Tour's brightest stars.

She posted six Top-10 finishes in 2008 and was runner-up at the 2009 Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first major of the season. Over the past two summers, she's earned US$672,000 playing the sport she once wanted nothing to do with.

There's no kicking and screaming en route to the driving range these days.

"At first, golf was just what I had to do if I was going to keep playing sports," McPherson said. "Now, it's just such a challenge -- you're never going to get it right. You can't be perfect. I love to be perfect, but you can't be perfect out here. You can always do something better and learn from your mistakes.

"I think it's just a great game to teach you about life."

McPherson will have to be almost perfect today to catch Norway's Suzann Pettersen, who's running away with the CN Canadian Women's Open at Priddis Greens Golf & Country Club.

Despite carding a triple-bogey at No. 13, McPherson fired a 2-under 69 in howling winds yesterday, leaving her with a three-day total of 6-under 207.

She enters today's final round eight shots behind Pettersen but just three birdies shy of second place.

It won't be easy to leapfrog the likes of Hall-of-Famer Karrie Webb and No. 1-ranked Lorena Ochoa, but McPherson has overcome long odds in the past.

"I always say the tougher conditions, the better I play, because I've learned to get it done no matter what," McPherson said. "I'm not going to give up, I'll promise you that. There's definitely no give-up in me."

Nobody can argue with that.

WES.GILBERTSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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