Sunday, April 01, 2012
Nicole Jeray-Professional Golfer
To my good fortune, I often meet the most interesting people. Not long ago, my wife and I attended a golf tournament, in the Champions Series at the Twin Eagles Golf Course in Naples, Florida. We followed a group of golfers for eighteen holes, including Canadian Rod Spittle. Also in the group was a golfer named Jim Carter. Caddying for Carter was Jody Keepers, and that is where this story begins.
We noticed, early in the round, that there was a woman following the round with us. She was paying more attention to the caddy than she was to the golf game. As we discovered, that was easy to explain, as the caddy was her boy friend. Her name is Nicole Jeray. We also learned that Nicole knew a little something about the game of golf, having turned professional in 1994, following a distinguished college career.
Nicole paid very close attention to the game. She knew the course well. She whispered to us that certain holes played more easily than others, and could be exploited for birdies. She sometimes lagged behind the group, stretching, flexing, practising shots, without a club. It was easy to see that she had an entirely different focus to the game than we did.
We discussed her role in the game today, as a professional golfer. She certainly has been through the grind, over the years. The game can be taxing, mentally and physically. In Nicole’s case, she had an extra burden to carry, that being narcolepsy.
She has become the leading advocate on the LPGA tour to help in the fight against narcolepsy. On a personal basis, she has organized “Swinging For Sleep”. For every birdie she registers in a tournament, money is donated to research. Last year she recorded 90 birdies, and the fund was $ 4 500 richer. This year, Jazz Pharmaceuticals is donating $ 250 for every bird she makes, as well as $ 1 000 for every eagle. She has been a beacon to spread awareness about narcolepsy, and to lead the struggle to conquer it.
Nicole’s struggles with narcolepsy are well documented in her blog pages, well worth a look. She discusses the fact that she needs plenty of rest and recovery time to play her best, not always possible on the tour. “Some rounds finish in the dark. Then the next tee time is early the next day,” she told me. She also strongly recommends the consumption of plenty of water.
One of her goals this year is to play in the United States Open which is being held in Kohler, Wisconsin. It is near her home in Chicago. She knows that she will have to qualify for the event, and that means playing 36 holes in one day. “I look forward to the challenge,” she said.
Nicole attended Northern Illinois University, and was the team’s most valuable player from 1988-1992. She graduated with a degree in finance. In the notes from her web site she added, “Although I don’t know why!”
She recently played in the Florida Natural Charity Classic, and then is off to Mexico for another tour event. She is looking forward to an event on August 23rd, the Wake Up Narcolepsy’s Golf Outing. She told me she does plan to play an event or two in Canada this year, although she was not certain of the times and venues.
In spite of her narcolepsy, she says, “I have never been late for a tee time! Close a few times, but never late!”
We look forward to following her year on her web site: www.NicoleJeray.com.
James Hurst April, 2012.