As Seen in Golfweek

Healing Connection

Stanford’s “Play for Her” campaign, dedicated to Cal coach Nancy McDaniel, raises money for breast cancer research.

By Beth Ann Nichols, Golfweek 

Nancy McDaniel found herself back in a hospital bed in July, battling cancer for a second time, and realized that she needed to get moving again. It started with a short walk down the hall.

“Anybody who would come visit, I would say, you have to walk me,” said McDaniel, the longtime Cal women’s golf coach, with a laugh.

At home, friends would come in the morning, at noon, and at 5 pm to walk with her to the end of the street, and eventually, around the block. The walking helped her physically, but the connection meant everything.

That healing connection has been magnified throughout the country in the form of a fundraiser organized by one of McDaniel’s former players and current head coach at Stanford, Anne Walker.

So far, the “Play For Her” campaign, tied to the Stanford Intercollegiate tournament, has raised more than $150,000 toward breast cancer research. One of the longest-running tournaments in college golf, the Oct. 20-22 event was hosted by Dr. Condoleezza Rice, who lost her own mother, Angelena, to breast cancer in 1985.

McDaniel cried when Walker called to ask if they could dedicate this year’s event to her. Funds will go directly to McDaniel’s oncologist, Dr. Hope Rugo, and her research at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“We have 120 women in the field,” said Walker. “Statistically, one in eight women get diagnosed in their lifetime. You do the quick math on that … 15 kids in the field are going to battle breast cancer in their lifetime. So, if we can educate them and make them more aware, maybe of those 15, a couple more will have better outcomes because they’ve had earlier intervention.”

First diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, McDaniel was high-fiving with her doctor last June about being cancer-free. Weeks later, she found out the cancer had returned in her stomach.

McDaniel, a 56-year-old mother of two, started chemotherapy again in August and took a leave of absence from coaching. She’s scheduled to return to work in November.

Associate coach Beverly Terry took over the reins in McDaniel’s absence, with Katie Mitchell helping onsite at tournaments. Husband Jay, head professional at Claremont Country Club, helps out as a volunteer assistant, in addition to anchoring her support system.

“(Bev) is just a poster coach for compassion,” said McDaniel of Terry, now in her ninth season with the Bears.

A Larger Purpose

McDaniel was part of Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur’s first recruiting class in the mid-1980s, earning All-American status and competing on professional tours around the world before becoming the founding head coach at Cal in 1994.

“I would take a thousand just like her in a heartbeat,” said Mulflur, who donated a sizable check to the Play for Her campaign.

McDaniel doesn’t want her players or her 24-year-old daughter, Molly, to have to worry about breast cancer. But she also wants them to understand the importance of being an advocate in their own health journey. To pay attention to toxins in their food, in cleaning products, and in what they put on their bodies. And to stay ahead of screenings and self-tests.

October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and McDaniel wants the next generation to understand and embrace the platform they have around breast cancer and other important issues.

“This takes courage,” she noted, “and it is your opportunity to affect the bigger picture.”

Washington assistant coach Anna Temple chose to play for McDaniel at Cal because she wanted to get better. She knew McDaniel would create an environment that would challenge, and she learned to appreciate that even more when she returned to Cal to work for McDaniel as an assistant coach.

Now that she’s working alongside Mulflur at Washington, Temple sees where much of what has been passed down to her got started. The connection carries on through the generations.

“Golf is a very tight-knit community,” said Temple. “It’s not surprising to me at all that Anne is using this event for a purpose that’s bigger than all of us.”

This article originally appeared in Golfweek.
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