Former Walk-On, PGA Tour Member Jeff Julian Passes

July 15, 2004

Jeff Julian, former PGA Tour player who attended Clemson University in the early 1980s, passed away Thursday morning after a long time battle with ALS. Below are links to relevant stories, one by and the other an article written by Clemson sports information Director Tim Bourret in 2002. story

Jeff JulianBy Tim Bourret NC State Game Program, 2002

This year Clemson and the ACC are honoring the greatest athletes in every sport for the 50-year history of the conference. Clemson had over 50 of its honorees return to campus for the Ball State game on September 21.

The list of Clemson athletes who have made these teams is a whose who of Clemson sports history the last 50 years. Clemson had more representatives than any other school on the 50-Year teams in seven different sports, including golf. Clemson has a rich tradition in that sport having recorded six straight top 10 NCAA finishes. The PGA and tours have had 12 former Tigers compete this year.

One former Clemson Tiger alum who did play on the PGA Tour this year, but did not make the ACC 50-Year Anniversary team is Jeff Julian. Julian is not considered a former all-time Clemson great, he never actually played in an official tournament for the Tigers when he was a student at Clemson between 1979-82.

His accomplishments on the golf course in recent years have not been particularly noteworthy either. He has played in three US Opens and has been a member of the PGA Tour or Tour for nearly a decade. But, he finished 211th on the PGA Tour money list in 2001 with $55,132. In the spring of 2002 he played in seven tournaments and never made a cut.

So, why are we writing a story in a football program about Jeff Julian during a year in which we celebrate the greats in Clemson athletic history? Jeff Julian’s mere participation on the PGA Tour this past summer is a noteworthy accomplishment and the way he has represented Clemson as an alumnus has been inspiring, as inspiring a performance as any given by the 160 Clemson 50-Year Anniversary team members.

Julian played seven PGA Tour events this past year as he deals with the incideous disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The disease is fatal, as it attacks the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Patients lose voluntary muscle control and the ability to move, swallow and breathe.

Julian was first diagnosed with the disease on October 8, 2001. He went to John’s Hopkins in Baltimore after noticing that his speech was becoming slurred and he was having trouble swallowing. There was a hacking cough that just would not go away.

Recently married, Julian and his wife Kim decided that he would fight on, and appear in as many PGA events as possible to bring attention to the disease, and thereby raising money for a cure. Julian did not earn enough money on the 2001 PGA Tour and failed to qualify through Q School. He thus had to apply for special exemptions to be included in any field.

The PGA Tour allows seven special exemptions in a season. When tournament chairmen read about his plight, receiving seven exemptions was as easy as breathing. Julian’s resilience and stamina despite the disease has been an inspiration to other members of the tour. “He carries on like nothing’s going on,” said PGA Tour’s Brett Quigley, like Julian a native of New England. ” A lot of people would feel sorry for themselves, but not Jeff. “

Julian’s problems first came to light nationally when he played in the AT@T at Pebble Beach in February. USA Today, Golf World and many others documented his fight. To participate this past summer, Julian had to have IV bag drips to fight the disease and keep his strength up so he could walk 18 holes. He also had many visits to chiropractors and other doctors who worked on rehabilitation from everything from his shoulders to his mouth and throat.

While the pain is considerable and his fatigue extreme at the end of each round, there were many highlights this year to Julian’s journey. Jack Nicklaus invited Julian to play in his Memorial Tournament in Ohio in May and the greatest player of the 20th century played with Julian during a practice round.

In June, Julian had flashes of brilliance on the course during a US Open sectional qualifier. He birdied three of the last four holes at Norwood Hills Country Club in St. Louis to advance to regional play. Unfortunately his goal of playing in the US Open, which he qualified for three times previously, fell short.

Many players on the tour have rallied behind Julian’s cause. After playing in the Greater Hartford Open in June, he went to Vermont, where a Jeff Julian Celebration of Golf was held the Monday after the conclusion of the tournament. Twenty members of the PGA Tour played and 360 people played over two courses that day, helping to raise over $200,000, money that donated to help fight ALS.

The governor of Vermont proclaimed that Monday, Jeff Julian Day across the state. “A lot of us can learn a lesson from him,” said Steve Pate, a member of the 1999 United States Ryder Cup Team. “He does not feel sorry for himself.”

“Jeff is one of the good guys,” said PGA Tour pro Olin Browne. “Twenty pros took time on a day off to come to Vermont and be a part of this. This is indicative of how people like him.”

I met Jeff Julian in Greensboro, NC last April. I was in town for an ACC meeting and he was there to participate in the Greater Greensboro Open. We ran into each other on an elevator. I introduced myself as being the sports information director from Clemson. His eyes lit up as he obviously instantaneously recalled simpler, happier days.

His voice slurred and difficult to understand, we talked about Clemson’s golf program and the rate improvement it has made since he was a Clemson student trying make the team as a walk-on. His wife had to translate a couple of times, but his interest in Clemson was still strong.

As he walked off towards his car and his pursuit to make the cut, I couldn’t help but think that former walk-ons like Jeff Julian can have just as positive an effect on the heritage of a school and its athletic program as any member of a ACC 50-Year Anniversary team.