Grateful Lindsey McCurdy battles back from debilitating bowel disease to begin sixth season on Epson Tour
When Lindsey McCurdy first got sick, she joked that she had to jot down the locations of all the bathrooms in her yardage book. Only this was no laughing matter.
When her mom, Amy, showed up to caddie in Idaho at the 2021 Circling Raven Championship, she’d often find herself standing on tee boxes alone as Lindsey raced across the course to the nearest port-a-potty.
“It was a nightmare for me,” said Amy, “and I can only imagine what she was dealing with.”
Lindsey typically felt the worst at night and in the morning. She barely slept. Amy, who stayed with her in the family’s 19-foot travel trailer, said it felt like Lindsey got up every 15 minutes. Amy implored her daughter to go home and see a doctor. She had no idea things had gotten so bad.
“I was so close to top 80, or full status,” Lindsey explained, “and that was the No. 1 thing on my mind.”
In the end, mom got her wish, and Lindsey headed home to Texas for a barrage of medical tests. For four weeks she stayed in bed, scared to get too far from a bathroom. Lindsey had a colonoscopy, and Amy grew terrified looking at the photos of her inflamed colon.
“I tried to stay calm and be rational,” said Amy, who felt like she was watching her daughter’s dreams crumble before their eyes.
“Not be dramatic,” added Lindsey, who grew up in the Austin suburb of Kyle, Texas. “I was really not sure if I could live a normal life again.”
In time, Lindsey was given a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease of the large intestine in which the lining of the colon becomes inflamed and develops tiny open sores, or ulcers. There is no known cure.
“When she informed us of her diagnosis, my heart broke for her,” said good friend Dorsey Addicks. “To be 26 years old and your life is kind of forever changed.”
As she tried different medications, Lindsey set a goal of coming back for the 2021 Epson Tour Championship. She was hitting it 20 years shorter, but thought this might be the last time she’d get to play in a professional event with friends.
Seeing their daughter compete that week in Daytona Beach, Florida, felt like the Super Bowl for this Texas family.
“We were Patrick Mahomes’ parents,” joked Amy.
Lindsey McCurdy (right) plays a practice round at the 2021 Epson Tour Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida, with friends Dorsey Addicks (center) and Kristin Coleman (left). This was McCurdy’s first tournament back after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. (Photo courtesy of Rich Addicks)
During the offseason, Lindsey started on a steroid but began feeling really sick again around Christmas. Then in March, right before the 2022 season began, she started an infusion treatment that lasts three hours and is needed every eight weeks. She immediately felt relief.
Each infusion costs roughly $7,000, and between insurance and a government program Lindsey found that covers up to $20,000 a year, she’s set for now.
“I’ve felt great ever since,” said Lindsey, who set out in 2022 trying to regain the ground she’d lost.
While it was a tremendous relief to return to the game that she loves, the former SMU student felt behind after almost no off-season training.
After both Addicks and Lindsey missed the cut in French Lick, Indiana, last summer, the two friends knew they’d have to go back to the first stage of LPGA Q-School. It was a gut-punch, however, that quickly became a silver lining.
“I played a practice round with her,” said Addicks of their time at Mission Hills, “and she was striping the ball. It was the best I’d seen her hit it all year. It was a page-turner for her.”
Addicks believed her friend put so much pressure on herself to get exempt out of first stage, that after it came and went, she was able to dig a little deeper. Both players left Rancho Mirage, California, prepared to grind out the rest of the season.
Lindsey went on to tie for 14th in Idaho and the following week, tied for 21st in Oregon. By the time she got to the Tour Championship, Lindsey needed one more strong finish to jump inside the top 100 and secure strong status for 2023.
She tied for 41st that week, jumping up to 99th on the money list. An hour later, she got word that she’d won the Heather Wilbur Spirit Award, presented to an Epson Tour player who best exemplifies dedication, courage, perseverance, love of the game and spirit toward achieving goals as a professional golfer.
“It was a good day,” said a grateful Lindsey.
It’s estimated that 1 million people in the U.S. are living with ulcerative colitis, though Addicks notes that it’s not often talked about among athletes because it can be career-ending.
Last December, South Korea’s Youngin Chun, 22, posted on Instagram that her LPGA career had come to an abrupt end after being diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis.
“It was definitely the most unexpected decision I had to make in my life,” wrote Chun, “but at the same time, it was the right decision, knowing that I truly gave it my all on course every single season, tournament and round.”
Lindsey saw Chun’s post and reached out.
As she looks toward the 2023 Epson Tour season, which begins next week in Winter Haven, Florida, Lindsey knows that a flareup could happen at any time without warning.
The concept of staying in the present and staying positive has taken on new meaning these days. Addicks says the game she saw from Lindsey at the end of last season was like the Lindsey of old.
“She’s feisty,” said Addicks, “so look out.”