By Ken MacLeod
The dawn to dark-thirty job duties of a PGA assistant professional can be tiring, but Aly Seng knew there was something more to the lethargy she was feeling late last summer than her normal run of tasks as a top assistant at Oakwood Country Club in Enid would induce.
The former collegiate player for the University of Central Oklahoma was blossoming into a star pupil for Tim Mendenhall, the genial 67-year-old head professional at Oakwood who has been providing service to the members for 31 years. Suddenly, something was wrong and the 25-year-old, normally full of energy and enthusiasm, was getting nervous.
“I was tired and never felt like I could recover from one day to the next,” Seng said. “I needed to get it checked out.”
She went to see her physician and a host of tests were run in September and into October. All results came back indicating everything was normal. Seng became scared, knowing something was hiding inside and that things were far from normal.
Finally, at her mother’s suggestion, Seng had a colonoscopy performed in Tulsa. Doctors were surprised to see such a young patient for that procedure, but the surprise turned to alarm when the results came in, showing her colon was filled with hundreds of polyps, evidence of an inherited genetic disorder called FAP (Familial Adenomatous Polyposis). The polyps start out benign, but can turn cancerous as the person ages.
Seng was whisked off to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for further tests, and three days after arriving underwent an operation to remove her entire colon and rectum. A J-shaped sac was created using part of a small intestine and that will allow her to resume bowel functions normally after a second operation in March.
“I’m recovering, feeling good and adjusting to the way things are now, but excited to get past March,” Seng said. “I want to get back to playing golf and working.”
Seng, the daughter of Enid high school teachers and coaches Tom and Julie Seng, thought coaching would be her future as well. A smart, solid player who just wasn’t quite at the level to go on to professional golf, she carried that goal of coaching through a year at the University of Oklahoma, a transfer to Arkansas State and then another move to UCO.
“The last few years I realized my heart was not quite into coaching like I thought I would be,” she said. “Tim gave me a chance here and I really liked the job. Oakwood is full of great people.”
Seng gives lessons, runs the junior program, does some club fitting and is learning all the tricks of the trade.
“She’s been doing a fantastic job at Oakwood,” Mendenhall said. “Last year she really blossomed. She does great work with our juniors and the members love her.”
Seng has lost 20 pounds she couldn’t afford to lose with the illness and is home recovering. Still, the prognosis is strong and the members and her friends are thrilled.
She will resume her studies this spring in the PGA apprentice program, where she faces about two years of study and tests before she would be eligible to be a Class A PGA professional. If she stays engaged, Mendenhall can see her being his eventual successor.
How big of a deal would that be? There are 5,446 male head professionals in the PGA of America, 114 female.
Closer to home, there are 156 male head professionals in the PGA South Central Section (Oklahoma, Arkansas and southern Kansas) and one female head professional, Dawn Darter at The Greens of North Hills, a public course outside Little Rock. There are no female head professionals in Oklahoma.
“I can’t guarantee her anything and she’s at least two years from getting her Class A card, but long term if I move into a Director of Golf position I can see her being the head professional at Oakwood,” Mendenhall said.
For now, everyone at Oakwood is just grateful that Seng is recovering and the prognosis is good.
“The unknown was the scariest part,” she said. “I just kind of leaned on my faith. I knew with God’s help, I’d get through it and I left it in his hands. But it was still tough. Having faith doesn’t make it easy. This has been an extremely difficult situation.
“Right now, I notice the progress in weeks. This week I can do a lot of things I couldn’t do last week. Staying patient is important.”