After years of suffering, McGill tries to beat her allergies

After years of suffering, McGill tries to beat her allergies

McGill has suffered from nasal allergies, on and off the course, since she was eight.
Peter Gregoire/SI

I was eight when I
knew I had a problem.

friend invited me over to
ride horses, and already being
a lover of the outdoors and animals,
I was excited about the
adventure. But it ended before
it began. I stepped out of the
car and was struck full blast
by the smells of the barn, the
horses, the hay, the fields of
blowing grass, the flowers. In
other words, pollen and mold
were everywhere.

Within minutes
my head hurt, my nose
was running and my eyes were
red and secreting so much
watery goo that they became
glued shut. The crowning
touch was a bulging sty under
one lid. There was no denying
it — I had allergies.

This is not exactly the kind
of medical trauma that shows
up on an episode of ER, but it’s
more serious than a lot of people
think, especially when you’re a

As many as 40 million
people in the U.S. suffer from
nasal allergies, which means
that up to four million golfers
might get more from a day on
the course than simply a little
sun and some exercise.

In 1995 I was playing in a
Futures tour event in Ocala,
Fla., and my allergies were
so bad that every time I bent
over to address the ball, fluid
came rushing out of my nose.

It became such a problem that
I had no choice but to put tissues
up each nostril to stanch
the flow and allow me to finish
the round. I can’t tell you
how thankful I am that there
were no photographers around.

I also can’t tell you how sad I
am that I’ve had to resort to the
tissue trick many more times
during my career.

I never want to say that my
allergies have cost me any sort
of success, because I don’t like
to make excuses, but they can
definitely have an impact on
your game. There were times
when I couldn’t practice or
play as long or as well as I
would have liked because I
couldn’t focus or simply felt
too tired. That’s one of the
frustrations about allergies.

In your head, you think, Ah,
it’s only a runny nose. I should
be able to play through it.
But in
reality, allergic
reactions can
hit as hard as the flu, complete
with headaches, sore throats
and general fatigue.

I know I’m not alone in my
misery, either. My sister, Shelley,
a teaching pro at Timarron
Country Club near Dallas, suffers
so bad that sometimes she
has to leave work by 2 p.m. so she
can go home and lie down. On
the LPGA tour lots of my fellow
pros are afflicted.

In fact, at the
Franklin American Mortgage
Championship outside Nashville,
a place notorious for high
pollen counts, we had a saying:
You know it’s going to rain, and
you know all the tissue boxes
will be empty.

To make matters worse,
people who don’t have allergies
can’t relate to the feeling
at all and often look at you as
if they’re trying to figure out if
you’re faking or making a big
deal out of nothing. Those of us
on the other side know it’s not

Still, golf is the kind
of game that keeps you coming
back, despite the suffering. I just
wish I were as allergic to double
bogeys as I am to dandelions.

That’s one affliction we should
all be so fortunate to endure.

Jill McGill, an LPGA member
since 1996, is working with the
Asthma and Allergy Foundation
of America to promote awareness.
For information go to

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