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Gary Van Sickle
July 16, 2001
Back in Business Heath Slocum, rebounding from a major illness, is burning up the minors
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July 16, 2001


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'01 British

2� to 1

'01 U.S. Open


2 to 1

'01 Masters


2� to 1

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6 to 5

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9 to 4

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3 to 1

'00 Masters


7 to 1

Back in Business
Heath Slocum, rebounding from a major illness, is burning up the minors

In December 1997 Heath Slocum never imagined that in 3� years he would be one of the hottest golfers on the planet Back then it took all his strength to do more basic things, such as dragging his aching body out of bed.

This year Slocum, 27, has won two of his last three starts on the tour and come in third in the other. During that stretch he has gone 106 holes without a bogey. One more victory and he will receive a battlefield promotion to the PGA Tour. Even if that does not happen, Slocum is so far ahead on the money list—he has earned $232,390, $49,899 more than runner-up Jonathan Byrd—that he's a lock to finish among the top 15, which will get him a pass to the big Tour next year.

That's a far cry from the waning days of '97, when Slocum, only a year removed from his All-America senior season at South Alabama, was wasting away with an undiagnosed case of ulcerative colitis, a disease of the lower colon. "I actually thought the boy was going to die," says Jack Slocum, Heath's father.

Watching his weight drop from 150 to 122 pounds in only a few months and needing to be fed intravenously was startling to the 5'8" Slocum, who had been a star athlete all his life. He had been the starting point guard as a ninth-grader at Milton ( Fla.) High, and had won two of the first three college golf tournament he played in. After contracting colitis on Thanksgiving in '97, he didn't play golf again for a year and a half. "I thought I had simply gotten sick, but I stayed sick for four months," says Slocum. "When a specialist told me I had ulcerative colitis, I had no clue what it was. You don't feel like eating because everything goes straight through you. My stomach cramped, and some days arthritis ran through my joints and I literally could not get out of bed. I felt like a 60-year-old man, and I was 24."

Slocum, who was living in Pensacola, Fla., didn't get out of the house much. When he did, it usually was to visit his doctor or a pharmacy. "I missed being outside," he says, "but anyone with colitis will tell you that you don't want to get too far from a bathroom." After his disease was diagnosed, Slocum controlled it with medication. He started practicing again midway through the '99 season and entered several mini-tour events, but he lacked the stamina to play well.

The key moment in Slocum's recovery came in August 1999, when he was in Atlanta playing a series of mini-tour events run by his father, a longtime golf pro. While he was there, Slocum's stepmother, Kay, mentioned his condition to her gynecologist, who referred Heath to Dr. Jack Koranski, who specializes in colitis. He changed Heath's medication, and Slocum quickly improved. Able to work hard on his game without tiring, he reached the final stage of Q school last year. He missed earning a card by three strokes but clinched a spot on the tour, on which last month he won the Greater Cleveland Open and finished third in the Dayton Open. Two weeks ago, he won the Knoxville Open. "Heath is riding a 50-foot wave now," says Knoxville runner-up Keoke Cotner.

Even though Slocum is back to 150 pounds, he's not a long hitter, but he hits straight and is deadly with a fairway wood or a wedge. He can't wait for a crack at the big Tour, whether this year or next. "It has been a long time coming for him," says his father, "but he's right where he should be. He's got game."

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