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October 10, 2012

Troy Athens golf coach and team help each other on and off the course

By Christian Davis
C & G Sports Writer

» click to enlarge «
Troy Athens coach Dan Cooper stands with his team’s No. 1, Jennifer Yang, during a match earlier this season. Cooper has been fighting cancer since June and credits his team for helping him in the battle.

TROY — It was the day after school let out for the summer that Troy Athens golf coach Dan Cooper’s life changed forever.

Cooper learned this past June that he had prostate cancer and that it had spread to his colon and stomach.

The coach was given options of removing the masses through surgery or trying to defeat it with a series of chemotherapy and radiation.

Cooper chose surgery.

“My first reaction was, ‘Can we wait until the girls golf season is over?’” Cooper said with a chuckle, standing on the Sanctuary Lake Golf Course practice green Oct. 5.

The answer was no. The cancer was too aggressive and needed to be dealt with in the near future.

Cooper went into surgery July 30 and had six pounds of cancerous tumors removed.

It was eight days before the golf season began, and Cooper didn’t miss the first day or any of them since.

“I care about them, and they care about me. They know I’m behind them 100 percent,” he said of his players.

Though there are changes to his routine this time around — he isn’t allowed to lift anything heavy, which rules out transporting the range balls or carrying a cooler of goodies to the clubhouse after a tournament — Cooper said his girls have taken care of all of that and more for him.

“They’ve been so supportive,” he said. “Every day I wake up, I feel different. Some days are great, some days are very, very hard. They are just so positive that they pick me up. They are so enthusiastic about being on a team for Athens, being in golf. They’re just so pumped about it. They lift me up. It’s very hard to describe, but I get so happy, and when you’re happy, you’re positive. When you’re positive, things work better.”

Cooper’s dedication has been a source of pride for the Red Hawks.

“He’s also the one keeping it positive,” senior captain Samantha Ruedisueli said. “I really admire that he kept coming to practices and helping us out even though he was going through everything. I think it was helpful for both of us.”

Junior Jennifer Yang agreed.

“He’s been a role model to us,” she added. “It’s pretty inspiring.”

As the season winds down, Cooper said he still has a battle in front of him. He said the doctors told him that they have removed 90 percent of the cancerous mass and he’ll need treatment in the future, but the prognosis is good.

“Once again I asked, ‘Can I do it after the girls golf season is over?’” Cooper said with a smile, noting that this time he was told yes. “I’m on the road to recovery.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Christian Davis at cdavis@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1062. Twitter Follow Christian on Twitter.