Scott Verplank Biography
Claim to Fame: PGA Golfer
DOB: July 9, 1964
Diabetes Type: 1
For an athlete, the pressure of the game brings an increase in adrenaline. The heart starts to race, the cold sweats begin to drip, palms become clammy and the body trembles. However, for an athlete with diabetes, these symptoms may be something more serious than nerves; it may be low blood sugar. For PGA golfer Scott Verplank, this scenario is all too real. Verplank has been a professional golfer for 25 years and has had type 1 diabetes for the past 37 years.
Born in Dallas, Texas, Verplank was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 9 after lapsing into a coma. Learning to give himself insulin and test his blood glucose levels, Verplank discovered that his diabetes was manageable and he became the star player on the W.T. White High School Golf Team and a staple at the Brookhaven Country Club. After graduating from W.T. White High School, Verplank went on to attend Oklahoma State University. In 1984, he won the U.S. Amateur Championships and, in ’85, the Western Open, becoming one of the first amateur golfers to win a PGA Tour event. In 1986, Verplank won the NCAA individual title and turned professional, joining the PGA Tour.
Overall, Verplank’s professional career has been successful with five PGA Tour wins, two Ryder Cup wins, and, most recently, winning the 2007 EDS Byron Nelson Championship. He has been ranked in the top 20 of the Official World Golf Rankings, named the 2011 winner of the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award, and, due to his impressive career despite of his illness, the 2002 Ben Hogan Award, reserved for an individual who has excelled in golf in the face of a physical handicap or serious illness.
Verplank credits his success to his diligence in testing his blood sugar levels and in the insulin pump he uses to monitor his diabetes. In a 2006 interview with Diabetes Health magazine, he stated, “Testing is my best remedy to stay on top of my control, and then I adjust my insulin and food to my results while I’m out on the golf course.” With the insulin pump, Verplank has flexibility with his diet and can compensate for situations where his body may be acting differently, such as during a stressful game or tournament when his adrenaline and stress levels are heightened; “Adrenaline and stress can change my blood glucose quite a bit, I get on less of a roller coaster after the round is underway. I continue to check and adjust to stay steady throughout the day.” Verplank’s constant monitoring guarantees that, should his blood sugar drop or spike, he is aware of that change and can catch it before it becomes problematic.
As an athlete, Verplank has to be able to see the long-term, as well as the immediate. Diabetes is a difficult illness to navigate in that it has short-term complications, such as fluctuating sugar levels that can result in seizure, unconsciousness, and brain damage, as well as long-term risks like coma, retinopathy, neuropathy, stroke, and infection. Verplank makes it a point to be in top physical health with frequent doctor visits and a firm understand of what is occurring throughout his body. “My eyes are good and my overall health seems to be pretty good. I don’t have a lot of signs of any kinds of complications—just normal signs of being 41.”
Aware of the possibility that he may serve as a role model for people with diabetes, Verplank states, “You can live with diabetes and you can control your own life and your own destiny. You don’t have to let diabetes control you—you have a better chance to be in charge of it.” A firm believer in the strength of the individual spirit, Verplank has overcome his illness and achieved great things both on, and off the golf course. The father of four, he is constantly planning for the future, making sure his family, career, and diabetes are on par.
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