PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — A Baptist Health cancer patient was in for a treat at THE PLAYERS Championship Wednesday when he met his favorite golfer.
Exactly one year ago to the day, Bender Middlekauff was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
“They said, ‘You have a brain tumor. We’re not letting you leave this hospital,’” Middlekauff recalled.
Having loved golf since he was old enough to hold a club, Middlekauff was afraid the diagnoses would keep him from his passion.
But thanks to a team of surgeons at Baptist Health and a five-hour craniotomy, Middlekauff bounced back.
Today, you wouldn’t even know Middlekauff had had brain surgery.
To be at THE PLAYERS Championship, he says, was exciting enough, even without the surprise he was in for.
“I just thought that Baptist gave me and my friends and my parents four extra tickets.”
Middlekauff couldn’t believe it when his favorite pro golfer, Justin Thomas, called him out by name Wednesday.
“Oh my gosh, unbelievable. He called me out by name on the sixteenth tee. He said, ‘You’re Bender, right?’”
To Middlekauff, it was a dream come true.
“I was like, ‘Yeah. You’re Justin Thomas. Can I call you JT?’”
Middlekauff says he’s happy to be back on the green.