Former Wisconsin Badger golfer Jim Lemon lives for the moment on the course.
A retired professional golfer who played on the European, Canadian and Asia Tours, the Verona resident is astute at having tunnel vision and blocking out obstacles. But there was one pain last year he couldn’t block out.
In August 2019, after experiencing persistent back pain, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Still, despite chemotherapy, numbness in his hands and feet, he has kept golfing.
Last week, he participated in the 100th annual Wisconsin State Open, which had its final round on Wednesday, Aug. 19, at the Blue Mound Golf and Country Club in Wauwatosa.
The 2013 champion of the event, Lemon shot a 2-over-par 72 in the final round and tied Madison’s Brandon Cloele for 43rd with a four-day score of 13-over-par 293.
“Health-wise it makes you see that there are things more important than golf scores,” Lemon said. “Golf and how I stand has changed. I’m just happy to be out here playing.”
Lemon bogeyed four of the first seven holes in the final round on Wednesday after making the cut for the top 60 golfers with a 3-over-par 73 on Tuesday, Aug. 18. He got hot later in the final round, with birdies on the 494-yard No. 5, the 372-yard No. 9 and the 353-yard No. 16.
Lemon, who retired from professional golf in 2011 after 10 years on the circuit, had planned to play in a couple tournaments this year but chose the Wisconsin State Open partly because he has a lifetime exemption to compete in the tournament as a former champion. He also had many friends that were playing in the three-day tournament he wanted to see.
“As a past champion, I want to continue to support the Wisconsin State Open and golf in the state,” he said.
The 2001 University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate has found it challenging to stay competitive with his every-other-week chemo treatments, which sometimes result in neuropathy.
“My hands and feet are numb and feel like pins and needles,” he said.
But with an 18 month old son, Max, he said he wants to continue being a role model.
“Hopefully, in the future I can show my son Max what competition is all about,” he said.
On the first day of the tournament, Monday, Aug. 17, Lemon birdied the 372-yard No. 9, the 178-yard No. 13 and the 353-yard No. 16. Lemon also racked up seven pars in the opening round. He had to settle for a double bogey on the par-3, 190-yard No. 17.
Lemon said his yardage using different clubs has changed since battling cancer. He had a tee shot on the fairway, but a chip shot using a 5-iron rolled into a bunker. His approach chip shot rolled on the green and then rolled off.
“I wish I could hit a 6-iron really hard,” he said. “It’s really hard to hit a long shorter club.”