WHILE most golfers will be gunning for glory at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth later this month, one with more than the solitary aim of just putting in a good performance is Chris Gane.
The 43-year-old PGA Professional will be playing in the European Tour’s flagship event for the third time and in a line-up that includes Rory McIlroy, Open Champion Henrik Stenson and 2016 Masters winner Danny Willett.
But mixing it with the ‘big guns’ is not Gane’s only priority after he sadly lost his mother to a rare lung condition called Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) back in February – a month before Mother’s Day.
“I took the worst phone call of my life from my father: ‘Chris, your mum has passed away in hospital. I am so sorry’,” Gane reflects.
“I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the exact whereabouts on the M25 I took the phone call and think about it every time I pass it.”
Gane’s mother, Jenny, had been diagnosed with the condition seven years ago. It involves a scarring and stiffening of the walls of the lungs and the deterioration of efficient gas exchange over time.
Not knowing whether or not she wanted her family to find out more about her condition and do more to support her is a question that still haunts Gane to this day, and one that he will be continuing to ponder no doubt at Wentworth.
“I do think that, knowing what a wonderful person mum was, that she chose to deal with this alone and shoulder the huge burden herself,” he adds.
“She remained happy, upbeat and embraced life to the full from the moment she was diagnosed to the day she died, she was adamant this disease wasn’t going to beat her – it was a truly incredible fight she put up and we’re so, so proud of her.
“O2, IV steroids – you name it, they gave it to her. Mum had fought so hard. She was improving and was scheduled to be discharged on the Monday.
“She had her lunch that Friday and told the doctor how good she was feeling. Then she drifted quietly and peacefully away. I still can’t believe it now if I’m being honest.”
Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis affects almost 15,000 across the country, although there are a lot more people that are undiagnosed.
Now with that knowledge and because of his own personal experiences, Gane is hoping to help spread the word about the condition through golf, by supporting the UK charity Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis.
“It is only after her death that I began to delve deeper into the world of IPF. I couldn’t believe some of the statistics I was reading.
“I was shocked at the huge funding disparities between this disease and others, the amount of people diagnosed, the amount of people potentially with the disease and the fact that there’s no specific cause that triggers IPF.
“I sat there reading and thought about how much mum had given of her precious time in later life to help others.
“She took part in drug trials, she attended support groups and many rehab sessions, in the faint hope it could help her but knowing that it could help others.
“I now want to try and help raise awareness of this condition as best I can. I still play in many high profile golf tournaments and will carry the Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis logos on my bag.”
That logo will be on show on Gane’s bag at Wentworth in front of thousands of spectators.
“When Mum was ill, we talked about her being on the first tee at Wentworth to see me play. Sadly it wasn't to be.
“If anyone asks, I’ll happily tell them my mum’s story, it fills me with huge pride talking about her strength and courage in the face of such adversity.”
As for his chances at the tournaments, Gane qualified through the play-offs at the back end of last year and is looking to
“It’s been in my mindset from the moment I qualified last year. I want to make the cut because you’ve got to set your sights as high as possible and give a good account of yourself.
“I’ve been trying to prepare as best as I can with everything that has gone on and I’ve been lucky to play in a few EuroPro events which has helped.
“I played in this event a couple of years ago when the likes of Rory were taking part and it’s brilliant. I took my kids along and they met Rory who signed hats for them. It raises the profile of the event.
“When I played two years ago I was a bit nervous about playing. I hadn’t been involved in a tournament that big and I was a bit worried about what might happen.
“But with everything I watched my mum go through I know there’s not much to worry about this time around.”
So while many fans down the fairway and watching at home will be cheering on their usual home favourites, keep an eye out for Gane who will be looking to make the cut for the first time in memory of his mother.
*Gane is one of 12 PGA professionals who will be hoping to make an impact the BMW PGA Championships. He will be joined at Wentworth by ian Poulter, Robert Rock, Matthew Cort, Greig Hutcheon, Paul Hendriksen, Robert Coles, Paul Streeter, Graham Fox, Neil O’Brian, Phillip Archer and Damien McGrane.
Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis (APF) was set up in 2013 by a group of patients, family members, carers and medical specialists to provide support for patients diagnosed with the devastating terminal lung disease Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF).
IPF kills 5,000 people in the UK every year – more than die from leukaemia and many other cancers. There is no known cause, no cure and the disease is poorly understood. To make a donation please visit www.actionpulmonaryfibrosis.org