After a year from hell, Scott Knouse is back on the golf course.
But he's not the same man — nor golfer — he was 12 months ago.
Of course, three major surgeries in less than 52 weeks does tend to change a person's perspective, as well as his golf game.
Round I: It started last September during the York County Amateur Golf Association Champion of Champions. The three-time York County Amateur champion just wasn't feeling right.
"When I teed the ball and stood up, I'd wobble," the 60-year-old Wrightsville resident said. "I knew something wasn't right."
Knouse was right. Something was definitely wrong.
A trip to the doctor found a growth in his sinus cavity, right between his eyes. It was cancer.
He had surgery to remove the tumor, followed by 33 radiation treatments.
He slowly started to feel better. He even went back to one of his other passions — officiating high school girls' basketball games.
Round II: Then, bam, Knouse's body failed him again. In early January, he suddenly found himself running to the toilet 20 times a day with diarrhea. After a month of that, he'd lost about 60 pounds from his 5-foot, 11-inch 210-pound frame. The ailment would leave him so dehydrated that his wife, Kim, who is a nurse, would hook him up to an IV at home.
He was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.
"It was way worse than cancer," Knouse said. "It was as close to death as I've experienced. I had to make a decision. So I had my large intestine removed. Another major surgery."
Round III: Again, Knouse started feeling better and gaining a little weight. He thought he was out of the woods.
He thought wrong.
Unbelievably, in June, his small intestine got blocked.
"They cut me open again and I spent another week in the hospital," he said.
Recovering: Since then, Knouse hasn't suffered any setbacks. His weight is back up to 170, although his wife still had to buy him new pants because his old ones kept falling down. He's feeling good and gaining strength.
After spending about four months in total on short-term disability, he's back working full time as a sales rep for a cutting tool company.
Back on the course: He's also back on the golf course. His game isn't what it used to be — yet — but it's getting closer.
"At first I couldn't get through a bucket of balls and I was cooked," he said. "Now I could hit three or four buckets."
At this past weekend's York County Mid-Amateur, Knouse shot a more-than-respectable 6-over-par 78 at Regents' Glen Country Club, good for a tie for 19th.
He also recently won the Cool Creek First Flight Championship after shooting uncharacteristically high scores of 80 and 82 in qualifying. That kept him out of the Championship Flight.
"I just don't shoot 80 and 82 and the Creek," he said.
Still, that First Flight title was special for Knouse.
"I've won a lot of things in my golfing career — major county titles. But that (winning the Cool Creek First Flight) was just as important," he said. "I just have a different outlook. It's just not that big a deal. I'm still competitive, sure. I want to do well, sure. But it's not the end of the world. Life is more important than golf. Family is more important than golf. When you dodge a bullet, you look at things a little different."
Brenner impressed by friend: Knouse plans to compete in the Champion of Champions on Sept. 14 and then he'll help out his good friend, Bill Brenner, during the War of the Roses match on Sept. 27-28. Brenner, a six-time York County Amateur champion, is the captain of the York County team that will face off against Lancaster County in a Ryder Cup-style, match-play competition. Knouse will be Brenner's assistant.
"We'll put our heads together and try to kick Lancaster's butt," Knouse said.
Brenner has been duly impressed with the way his friend has battled through his health woes, using the words "inspiring" and "amazing" to describe it. He even expects his friend to be a "major force" again in York County golf competitions.
"Scott has handled his illnesses with the same way he approaches life and golf," Brenner said. "He's gonna beat this thing no matter what he has to do. He has made some of the most difficult and courageous decisions that a man could ever make. Some are very personal. And he hasn't lost his sense of humor through it all. ... He found a strength he probably never knew he had."
Brenner recalled an event from the past as an example of Knouse's dogged attitude.
"A couple years ago, when we didn't play well in a tournament and were disappointed, I came up with the phrase, 'deflated, not defeated,'" Brenner said. "We use it quite a bit. That's how I think Scott has approached this whole new chapter in his life — 'deflated, discouraged, but not defeated.'"
Love for officiating: Knouse is also looking forward to getting back on the basketball court as an official. He's been one of the top-rated girls' referees in York County over the years, working numerous championship and playoff contests.
"I enjoy that as much at this stage in life as golf," he said. "There's nothing like the postseason. I miss that a lot."
Giving thanks: Knouse was sure to mention that he couldn't have survived this past year without his wife of 37 years, Kim.
"She is my rock," he said. "I would never have made it without her. No way."
He also gave credit to the many doctors and nurses who helped him every step of the way.
Sending a message: Finally, Knouse had a message for folks who aren't feeling quite right.
"Don't let stuff go," he said. "Get things checked, because you just don't know. I was just fortunate I had this checked out. Life is very short. Never take it for granted."
That's a lesson that all of us would do well to remember.
— Steve Heiser is sports editor for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.