In control

• Q-School highlights (Round 1): PGA Tour • LPGA
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WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – Todd Demsey walks and talks like a man under complete control of his emotions. His words are chosen carefully, his tone of voice stays at an even keel, and his facial expressions would leave anyone at a poker table impressed.

If Demsey could package his steady demeanor into an easy-to-swallow capsule and sell it to the rest of the 165 players here at the final stage of PGA Tour Q-School, the line of takers might wrap around Orange County National’s mile-long circular driving range.

“I know how long of a week it is,” Demsey said. “I have to pace myself and just not get too excited one way or the other.”

This is Demsey’s sixth trip to the Q-School finals, but his first time back to Orange County National since 2003. Dealing with consistent pressure in his left sinus, he missed the cut in half of his starts on the Nationwide Tour that year. After failing to get his PGA Tour card at Q-School, Demsey flew back home to the Phoenix area to have a second surgery to remove the remaining cells of a benign tumor that was discovered earlier that year.

“At that point, I had already had the first surgery, which went well,” Demsey said. “(The remaining portion of the tumor) was nothing terrible, but I definitely knew it was there.”

His first surgery on Jan. 7, 2003, took seven hours. Doctors performed a craniotomy to remove a golf ball-sized mass in the lower left side of his brain. Portions of his skull were removed, along with some of the tumor. What remained after surgery was an unnoticeable 12-inch scar from his left ear to the top of his head.

Now, as Demsey returns to central Florida fighting to get his PGA Tour card back, more treatment is on the way. Doctors weren’t able to completely remove all of Demsey’s tumor, so next week he will undergo an MRI to determine if more radiation is necessary.

“The hope is that radiation will take care of it,” Demsey said. “I think it’s really unlikely that I’ll ever need surgery again as long as we keep an eye on it and keep it from getting out of control.”

But how difficult is it to concentrate on golf, especially here where the pressure is so high?

“It’s never affected my golf really,” Demsey said. “I’m probably most calm on the golf course.”

Calm is what Demsey is all about. He strung together six birdies Wednesday for a 5-under 67 on the Crooked Cat course at OCN and is in a tie for seventh.

“I played well, nothing too exciting. It was a good start,” he said.

Perhaps only Demsey and his wife, Melinda, who will celebrate their fifth anniversary on Dec. 14, can completely understand what type of impact his health has had on his golf. Almost immediately after they got engaged, Demsey found out about his tumor. Even Demsey’s close friend, Jeff Klauk, also competing here at final stage, is befuddled by how Demsey has taken his health issues in stride.

“I would be worried sick about it if it was me,” Klauk said. “He’s already been through a whole lot. He knows what’s going on.”

Demsey says that even more than his health, it’s his 16-month-old daughter Maggie that is adding to his positive perspective on golf and life. His wife is expecting another child in 2008.

“It’s definitely mellowed me out a little bit,” he said. “Golf used to be everything.”

Demsey played on the Gateway Tour in 2006 and made nine cuts in 29 starts this year on the Nationwide Tour. His best finish was a tie for sixth in April at the Livermore Valley Wine Country Championship.

But perhaps more exciting than that was when he Monday qualified for the PGA Tour’s Wachovia Championship in May. It was his first Tour start in 10 years and put him back alongside Tiger Woods, his teammate at the 1994 World Amateur Team Championship, Phil Mickelson, who Demsey played with one year at Arizona State, and ‘93 Walker Cup teammate Justin Leonard.

Whether Demsey earns his way back to the big leagues this week at Q-School remains to be seen. The way he views it, the way he’s always viewed it, there are more important things at stake.

“Obviously I’d like to finish in the top 25,” he said. “But this week, whatever happens, happens.”

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