ORLANDO, FLORIDA (AP) – This kind of finale would have elicited a different reaction from the old J.J. Spaun. When Spaun sank his tee shot in the water at the par-3 17th hole and nearly rinsed his approach at the par-4 18th hole before getting a lucky break off the rocks, he was within striking distance of the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. But he’d waste the opportunity, squandering an 8-footer for par. Spaun’s 3-over 75 was highlighted by a double bogey-bogey finish, dropping him to 2 under and seven strokes behind leader Viktor Hovland.
He’s not out of it yet, but dinner wouldn’t be nearly as tasty without him. Literally.
“Food used to be my therapy,” Spaun said. “If I had this finish four years ago, I’d definitely go punish a couple of milkshakes or whatever, like some In-N-Out, just to eat my misery away.” “However, I’ve discovered that I’m not capable of doing so.”
At his heaviest, Spaun, who is 5-foot-9, weighed 217 pounds, most likely during his debut season on Tour in 2016-17. Spaun came close to breaking through on multiple times during that time span, finishing runner-up at the 2017 RSM Classic and then collecting a trio of T-3 finishes the following year. Spaun began to lose weight abruptly as his 2017-18 season drew to a close, and he became increasingly lethargic. His swing speed and driving distance began to deteriorate.
He was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the fall of 2018 — or so doctors assumed.
Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are distinguished by a few key distinctions. The immune system assaults and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas in Type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, which is more frequent, is caused by poor food and activity. The body can still manufacture insulin, but the pancreas has a hard time keeping up with high blood sugar levels. Type 1 is a hereditary condition that usually manifests itself early in childhood, whereas Type 2 manifests itself over time.
During his initial diagnosis, Spaun had three top-15 finishes in a row. Spaun, who was eating healthier, exercising more, and taking Type 2 treatment, didn’t seem to be getting any better over the next year. He continued to lose weight, dropping to 165 pounds, and his golf game sank to new lows. Spaun dropped to No. 584 in the Official World Golf Ranking by mid-2021, after flirting with the top 100 at the end of 2018.
Spaun finally saw a doctor after nearly three years and realized that he had been misdiagnosed. He was a late-onset Type 1 diabetic.
“It was a two-year struggle for me,” Spaun stated. “I’m not blaming anyone for that, but it was a contributing factor.” I was going about my business in the incorrect way. Type 2 diabetes has a different treatment plan than Type 1 diabetes, and I’m not even taking the correct medicine to control my blood sugar. As a ‘Type 2,’ I was eating nothing, probably less than 1,500 calories per day, and still experiencing high-glucose side effects, so I required the insulin to help balance things out and be able to eat more calories in general.”
Spaun is feeling restored nearly a year after a potentially career-saving re-diagnosis. He’s back to a healthy 175, and the Tour has given him permission to compete while wearing a Libre blood-sugar monitor and checking his readings. He may pass out if his blood sugar is very low. When the temperature rises too high, his vision begins to blur. Spaun must track numbers that his opponents do not, in addition to carrying numbers and reading putts.
“It’s more work,” Spaun admitted, “but my health is better in the long term.”
He’s regained some of his quickness, to speak of numbers. This season, Spaun is averaging 291.8 yards off the tee, up nearly six yards from previous year. After a few years of attempting to reduce his power loss – and losing his swing in the process – Spaun has re-built an action similar to the one he used in 2017-18, when he was ranked 63rd in strokes gained: tee-to-green, but tailored to Spaun’s thinner frame.
“It’s difficult when your swing is based around that kind of build for the previous year,” Spaun said. “Then you’re up here [on Tour] and you’re getting banged up and searching and not really knowing what was going on.” “I’d show someone my old swing and say, ‘What do I have to do to do that?'” she says. And, honestly, comparing that body to my current one is like comparing apples to oranges. But [Andy] was able to spot certain discrepancies and attempted to reintegrate me into the blueprint. Everything isn’t the same now, yet I still have that same appearance and move as before.”
Many of Spaun’s “fat clothing” are still in his possession. He believes it’s difficult to give them away because “no one is a 38-30.” Spaun’s old clothes, though, serve as a reminder of how far he’s come, since he now wears Euro-cut Galvin Green polos and size 34-waisted slacks.
Spaun preserved his FedExCup card with a T-2 in the KFT Finals opener after placing 185th in points previous season. He currently ranks 47th in the points standings after four top-25 finishes this season, and a strong weekend at Arnie’s Place can help him move even higher. It’s not a bad spot to try out your new swing.
Spaun stated, “I’ve learned a lot.” “I’ve accepted where I’m at in my game.” All I have to do now is work with what I’ve got. I used to be so consistent with my ball striking – and I’m getting back there – but I was lost for a couple of years. I’m just trying to get back into my lane, which is simply fairways and greens, and the weeks I putt well are the weeks I’m right in the mix.”
Perhaps that’s why Spaun wasn’t irritated after scoring at Bay Hill on Friday. He understands what it’s like to go through a serious hardship. A few water balloons are insignificant.
“It’s a difficult finale,” Spaun added. “If I’m right there, I’d rather that happen today than on Sunday.”