Walking on the wild side for cancer
Nick Edmund takes high road after diagnosis.
IF you’re travelling from Carrig Island to Ballybunion today and wonder why there’s a middle-aged man striding slowly south with a set of golf clubs on his back, spare a thought for a remarkable human being and anyone you’ve ever known to have been touched by cancer.
It’s Englishman Nick Edmund, who for 15 years was Nick Faldo’s right-hand man at Faldo Golf Design, completing the second half of his epic, 2,000 km walk along the Wild Atlantic Way from Malin Head to the Old Head of Kinsale.
He’s not insane (or even righthanded) by any means but a left-hander trying to deal with his own neck and head cancer diagnosis as best he can while also continuing to promote a worldwide charitable campaign called ‘Global-Golf4-Cancer’.
“It takes such great effort when you are suffering yourself to do something for others and raise money for the future,” Nick Faldo said last year. “What a great, generous gesture by Nick to go off and walk all over Ireland to create awareness.”
Global-Golf4-Cancer is an awareness and fundraising initiative, which in Ireland is supporting Galwaybased charity, Cancer Care West. And it’s almost a miracle that he’s completing the second half of his great odyssey at all.
With his right parotid gland and the lymph nodes on the right side of his neck removed, he set off last spring and completed the first half of his walk as scheduled – stopping at 20 clubs along the Wild Atlantic Way from Malin Head to Galway to play the fourth hole and deliver a ‘Global-Golf4-Cancer’ awareness flag for the club to fly the flag periodically on that hole.
His plan was to rest in the summer and complete the second half of the Wild Atlantic Way last autumn, walking a further 1,000kms from Galway to Kinsale.
But his plans were thwarted when a new cancer diagnosis required him to undergo four weeks of radiotherapy treatment followed by nine-and-a-half hours in surgery to replace his scalp with a graft from his left thigh.
Most people would have put their walking boots and golf clubs away for good after such an ordeal but the 57-year old from Exeter would not give up on his quest.
“I was determined anyway, but if anything the new tumour made me more determined not to let it beat me,” he said as he rested in Kilkeel earlier this week having just completed the journey from Lahinch to Doonbeg and Spanish Point.
“It really did seem like unfinished business. After radiotherapy didn’t work and I had to have surgery to remove this more aggressive tumour in my head, I wondered if the walk was going to be possible at all. So I set the date for 4 March and it gave me something to work towards.”
Walking the roads of Ireland is not easy at the best of times and one can only imagine the challenge it presents when you’re recovering from cancer and have to walk 20km a day with a set of golf clubs on your back.
“They slow you down a bit, but if I was just walking it wouldn’t relay the message,” he said. “I have never been a big walker either and had trouble just walking down to the train station before I fell ill.
“But it is mind over matter and there are so many pluses. Not only do I get to create awareness of ‘Global-Golf4-Cancer’, I get to see the magnificence of the Wild Atlantic Way and really appreciate the beauty of Ireland. You see a lot if you are driving, but you have time to take in so much more on foot – the walk from Louisburgh to Leenane and then on through Connemara was just so stunning.”
A cheap and cheerful B&B and hearty breakfast is all he needs to steel him for each stage of his trip and with the ‘Global-Golf4-Cancer’ flag fluttering in his bag – he carries just a driver, a 4-iron, a 9-iron and a putter – quizzical looks
from the people he meets along the way quickly fade to knowing nods and chats.
“By the end of this year, the flag will be flying in 20 countries on some interesting fourth holes around the world,” said Nick, who had the idea for ‘Global-Golf4-Cancer’ before he fell ill himself.
“So it has given me a target. And I have always had a very bright outlook on life anyway and I find it very rewarding, meeting people and seeing places is something that would not have happened if I had sat back and been miserable.”
His links with Ireland are long-standing and it was he who first fell in love with Ballyliffin, encouraging Faldo to visit a club he once tried unsuccessfully to buy before making great friends there and agreeing to redesign the famous Old Links.
“It’s ironic that Ballyliffin was the first course where we raised the flag,” he said. “The last one will on the iconic 4th at the Old Head of Kinsale with the lighthouse in the background on May 4.”
As he heads through Kerry and Cork, he’s got time to think of all that’s happened to him and thank the likes of Failte Ireland, the IAGTO, North and West Coast Links, SWING and Cancer Care West for helping him on his way.
“I won’t deny it’s has been a difficult few months,” he said. “But I didn’t imagine for one minute that I might not be returning to the west coast of Ireland.
“For one thing, it is an extraordinarily beautiful place, and from the far north of Donegal to the most remote corners of Connemara I have always received an incredibly warm welcome.
“Moreover, it became clear to me that cancer has touched the lives of so many of the people I’ve met along the Wild Atlantic Way that I feel I owe it to them, as well as the golf clubs and countless individuals who have been helping and encouraging me, to complete this journey.”
For further information about the Wild Atlantic Way 4-Flag Campaign, please visit www.globalgolf4cancer.org
Nick and his clubs on an inspiring journey along the Wild Atlantic Way for cancer charity
Nick receives a cheque from Galway Bay Golf Club