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Pacers Prince rebounds from health scare

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO Her weight up and her swing back, Kendall Prince challenged the finest young golfers in the world at the Annika Invitational in February. It was her first tourney after a severe illness and she took fifth place.

Kendall Prince went from having the world at her feet to having her world turned upside down.

The Lakeridge High School senior went from being one of the top junior golfers in the world to being an invalid in severe pain, bedridden, losing all of her physical strength, and totally baffled about what was afflicting her.

Playing golf was out of the question. Maybe even living a normal life.

"It was scary," Prince said. "I was really sick at the end of August, and the doctors couldn't figure it out."

But now this real life nightmare is over. Last weekend Prince was at the Future Collegians World Tour Tournament in San Ramon, Calif. showing her old iron determination and precision shot making despite playing in pouring rain. Her brilliant four-under par round on the second day gave her the tournament championship by five strokes.

It was the second year in a row for Kendall to win the tourney, and she has just been named player of the week by Golfweek.

"I had my lowest putting round (23) ever on the first day," she said. "On the second day I didn't have a bogey."

After her ordeal, though, Prince no longer takes such accomplishments for granted.

At the end of the 2009-10 school year she was riding high, burning up the junior girls tournament circuit and barely missing out on winning the state championship. She was being courted for a scholarship by golf powerhouses, including Ohio State University.

What could go wrong? It came out of the blue.

"We thought we saw some fatigue creeping in after the state tournament," said Erin Prince, Kendall's mother. "We thought it was mononucleosis, and Kendall took test after test.

"It was really scary watching your child completely faded. She couldn't even sit up. She turned yellow. She was in excruciating pain.

"The doctors thought she might have auto immune hepatitis, which was the worst scenario possible."

"I was so miserable," Kendall said. "I was in bed three straight months. I lost 15 pounds in a month. The doctors at OHSU couldn't figure out what was wrong."

Thanks to her loving, supportive family and the same drive that had helped her become an outstanding athlete, Kendall became prepared to face the possibility of her life becoming drastically altered.

"She had to grow up pretty fast," Erin Prince said. "We kept fear out of it, and we loved her up a lot. She's such a trooper. She did as much as she could do. We tried to put her life in perspective. Golf is wonderful, but it's just a game."

Finally, the cause of Kendall's problems was diagnosed. Apparently, a low-dose antibiotic had caused her liver to attack itself. When she was taken off the medication her liver began to heal, and she began her road back.

Kendall being Kendall, she tried her best from the start. But she lasted only five minutes on the course merely chipping and putting, and her drives dribbled pathetically off the tee.

Still, Prince's season of pain began to fade away. Her liver began getting healthy and she was able to put on some weight on her 5-3 frame.

Her game began to recover, and the people who rank the finest young golfers in the world did not forget her. She was listed among the 72 elite girl golfers in the world and was invited to compete in the Annika Invitational in Florida (named after golf super great Annika Sorenstam) in February.

It was her first tournament back since her illness, but Kendall showed she belonged with the best. She delights in the memory.

"I finished fifth (70-72-75) among all of the junior golfers in the world," she said. "It was so exciting."

Kendall has signed a national letter intent to play for Ohio State, and this year she is foregoing regular high school competition to play the finest youth golfers in the USA.

"I'm playing in so many national tournaments," Prince said. "California, Arizona, all over the place."

Certainly, Kendall Prince seems poised to be an even better golfer than ever. But getting through the greatest crisis of her young life will have much greater effect.

"The most important thing Kendall gained was a fresh perspective," Erin Prince said. "She does not take things for granted."

This brings to mind for Erin a favorite story. Kendall was coming off the course after the final round of the Annika Tournament, exultant about her performance.

Erin said, "She told Rick (her father) 'Dad, I became overwhelmed with emotion. I almost cried. I'm out here playing golf after all I've been through!'

"It was just incredible to hear that."