LPGA Pro Salmon beating the odds

Published 1:07 pm Friday, June 25, 2010

Bobbi Salmon picked up a golf club for the first time at the age of 24, went out and shot an 85 and wondered what all the fuss was about.

I thought the game was easy of course, that was before I knew anything, said Salmon, a respected LPGA teaching professional and former Tour player who teaches at the Links OTryon and lives in Tryon.

Salmon arrived in Tryon a couple of years ago to be near her uncle and Tryon resident, John Salmon, and to be closer to the Duke University Medical Center to receive treatment for Scleroderma, a rare disease afflicting 300,000 Americans, including Bobbi Salmon.

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The disease helped shorten Salmons playing career, which included stints on the Asian and several American mini-tours. Salmon found herself in near constant pain and after several misdiagnoses, learned that she had systemic Scleroderma, a disease that causes the hardening of the skin and internal organs. In severe cases, it is fatal.

At first, they thought I was a hypochondriac, she said. They looked at me somebody who looked tan and healthy and said it was in my head.

While the disease mostly sidelined Salmon as a playing professional, it has not stopped her from teaching, a pursuit that has become her passion. She ran a successful teaching school in Florida and was voted among the top 50 teaching pros in the country by the LPGA before moving to Tryon and splitting time between lessons at Links OTryon and in Palm Springs, Calif.

Teaching is really what I enjoy doing, said Salmon, who played volleyball and softball as an undergraduate majoring in psychology at Appalachian State. But she didnt play golf at the school.

I didnt play until I was 24, she said. A lot of people said I was a natural. I had always wanted to be a professional athlete I had played some semi-pro softball so I taught myself to play. I never took a lesson and a year after I started, I qualified for the U.S. Open.

An unfettered look at golf and a psychology degree add to Salmons teaching style, which focuses more on results than form. In between playing with the boys at Links of Tryon and fixing the often struggling and occasionally hapless golf games of her students, Salmon has made Scleroderma her pet project, raising thousands of dollars for research for a cure.

In July, Salmon will head off to Post Falls, Idaho for the Bobbi Salmon Scleroderma Benefit Golf Tournament. She said the event raised more than $30,000 last year.

This is an orphan disease, Salmon said. Not a lot of people have it, so most people have never heard of it. The drug companies arent pouring a lot of money into research for a cure.

So, Salmon continues the fight to raise money and to teach people about Scleroderma.

I feel lucky to be in the position Im in so that I can help educate people about the disease, and I can host these tournaments, because, as golfers, thats what we do, she said.