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Doug Brecht, LPGA rules official and Oklahoman, passes away from West Nile Virus

Around the State
Monday, October 15, 2012
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Doug Brecht discusses a ruling with Christie Kerr

Doug Brecht, longtime LPGA rules official from Oklahoma, passed away Friday due to complications from meningitis associated with the West Nile Virus,

Brecht, 62, endured a difficult medical battle over the past few months after contracting West Nile Virus this summer. He was hospitalized in Toledo during an LPGA  event in August  and was later transported to his home in Oklahoma. Doug spent the last few months with  wife Stephanie and family by his side fighting hard to change the course of his illness. Family members were with him Friday when he passed.

Brecht's funeral will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at St. John's Episcopal Church in Norman.

Below is a statement from LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan:

"I talked to Doug's wife Stephanie, and she told me that Doug passed very peacefully, and with his family close-by. "I'm no expert on how to grieve, but this one has hit pretty hard. There are no words that can either ease the pain of losing a member of our family, or help to fully explain or understand his passing. 

"What I do know for certain is that Doug loved being a part of the LPGA family, and he told me - on numerous occasions - that he felt blessed to have a job that he loved so much.

Personally, there was a distinctive peacefulness that always seemed to accompany Doug. No doubt, he is in a place of peace now and he will always be remembered for his kind heart and many gifts."

There is a story below on Brecht and his battle with West Nile Virus in the October issue of Golf Oklahoma, written by former LPGA staffer Lisa Mickey.

 

From the Oct.-Nov. issue of Golf Oklahoma (Read the article as it originally appeared on page 37).

Also, Here is a link to a video tribute to Doug Brecht by Dottie Pepper.

A nice local tribute to Doug Brecht by Clay Horning of the Norman Transcript.

By Lisa D. Mickey

 

The LPGA Tour has been rocked recently by the sudden and severe illness of Oklahoman Doug Brecht, who contracted the West Nile virus in August. Brecht was working as the LPGA's advance official for a tournament in Toledo, Ohio when he became ill.

 

Serving as the LPGA's Director of Rules and Competition, Brecht was still in serious condition at Select Specialty Hospital in Oklahoma City at press time. He remained in a Toledo hospital for two weeks before being airlifted with medical personnel back home to Norman, where he could be closer to family.

 

"This virus is a big question mark," said his wife, Stephanie Brecht. "Right now, Doug is a bit like a stroke victim. We don't know how much he'll get back and there a lot of things the doctors don't know. It's just a matter of time as he recovers."

 

Brecht did not remember being bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus, but on Aug, 6, his 62nd birthday, he complained of feeling lethargic. Stephanie Brecht spoke to her husband on the telephone and was surprised that he was "really emotional, crying on the phone."

 

The reason for his concern was Brecht was worried that there was a problem with his kidney. He had received a kidney transplant from his sister, Kay Dunaway, back in August 2000, and his recovery has been successful. But suddenly experiencing inexplicable symptoms with a compromised immune system, Brecht was far from home, feeling sick and scared once again.

 

Robert O. Smith, also of Norman, who has known and worked with Brecht for 40 years, spoke to a mutual friend in Toledo who had seen Brecht on Sunday, the day before the LPGA tournament week was to begin. Smith was told that Brecht "looked terrible" and had been seen wearing a coat and shivering in the LPGA staff's mobile office with the air conditioners turned off.

 

As the rest of the LPGA staff arrived at the course for the start of tournament week, they soon realized that Brecht was not himself and that something was very wrong.

 

"We grew more and more concerned as time passed," said Heather Daly-Donofrio, senior vice president of tour operations for the LPGA. "It was a very upsetting and scary time for the staff because it happened so suddenly. Doug is an integral part of the staff and has been a fixture on the tour for years. We are all still worried about him."

 

Brecht went for lab work at a Toledo hospital on Monday (August 6) of tournament week and was told that he had a virus. The diagnosis that it was a virus and not his kidney "satisfied him, but he still did not feel well," said his wife.

 

By Tuesday morning, Brecht was feeling worse. He was confused, had cold chills and was lethargic. An LPGA colleague took him back to the hospital. When Brecht accepted a wheelchair in patient admissions, his colleagues knew the "hard-headed Oklahoman" finally acknowledged that he was very ill.

 

The hospital called his wife on Wednesday morning and informed her that Brecht was "more confused and more lethargic." An hour later, the hospital called again and informed Stephanie that her husband had been sedated and placed on a ventilator. According to Stephanie, "he was sedated for five days to allow his body to devote all of its energy to fighting the virus." Three or four days into his hospital stay, test results revealed that his illness was, indeed, the West Nile virus.

 

"The doctors had to take him off his anti-organ rejection medications and they put him on multiple antibiotics," added Stephanie. "Doug began having seizures. There were a lot of complications because of his immune system."

 

By late September, and back in his home state, Brecht was taken off sedation, but he was still breathing by a ventilator through a tracheotomy. Doctors were trying to wean him off the ventilator to breathe on his own. He also resumed taking his anti-rejection medicine.

 

"He is still really weak, but his vital signs are good," said Stephanie. "He's not paralyzed, but the virus affected the part of the brain that controls movement. So far, he has moved his toes, thumb and fingers on his own. We're working with an occupational and physical therapist to get him to squeeze my hand."

 

Smith went to visit his long-time friend in the hospital. When he walked into the room, Brecht's eyes widened.

 

"He can't talk and he can't move very much, but Doug saw me," said Smith, who was the head professional at the University of Oklahoma's course in 1978 with Brecht as his assistant pro. "I said, 'Son, you need to get up and get out of here so we can go play golf.'"

 

And then Smith added, "I know Doug will work hard to get over this, but it's going to be a long road."

 

Doug Brecht's long road in golf has taken him from the University of Oklahoma, where he played college golf in the 1970s and earned a degree in mathematics, to the Jimmy Austin University of Oklahoma Golf Course, where he worked as a club pro for 17 years. He also served as Oklahoma's women's golf coach from 1982-1986.

 

Eventually, Brecht followed Smith to the LPGA Tour to work as a rules official. Smith left Oklahoma in 1989, with Brecht following him to the LPGA in 1993.

 

Brecht met former LPGA touring professional Stephanie Lowe in the mid-1990s. The two actually had a bumpy start after Brecht gave the player a two-shot penalty for slow play at the LPGA's tournament in Springfield, Ill.

 

"It took me a few years to cool off about that," laughed Stephanie. "I couldn't look at him for about 18 months."

 

But the two were married in 1999. And, ironically, one of Brecht's biggest impacts on the LPGA Tour was his hard line on slow play. Regardless of where players were on the money list or where they were on the scoreboard, if they were out of position on the course, Brecht would enforce the rules of golf.

 

"Slow play really gets under his skin and that's why he has been so vigilant about it," said Stephanie. "Doug always felt he could make a difference in the pace of play and he treats everybody - whether they are No. 1 or No. 144 - the same way. He just felt when he stood up for the rules, he was protecting the field."

 

Pace of play was such a high concern for Brecht that he and Daly-Donofrio began working individually with tour players this year who needed help. Rather than just assessing strokes for deficient times during competitive rounds, the two LPGA staff members tried to help players understand where they were losing time to avoid being penalized.

 

"We've tried to be more proactive and Doug has timed many of them when they weren't on the clock," said Daly-Donofrio, who has known Brecht since she was an LPGA rookie in 1998. "Many of those players have improved and responded well to the help."

 

Brecht has also not been afraid to make unpopular decisions for setting up courses for LPGA tournaments - such as when a host course has rough spots in fairways that must be marked as "ground under repair." Those areas of courses are marked with white paint by rules officials, often to the great displeasure of course superintendents.

 

"Doug would say to some of the superintendents, 'You're not going to like it, but we're going to paint it ground under repair,'" said Stephanie. "What these people eventually learned was Doug was doing it only because it was the right thing for the tour."

 

Smith credits Brecht's knowledge of the rules as well as his knowledge of the game as strengths that have benefited the LPGA. Over the years, the two frequently consulted each other about rulings in competition.

 

"Doug knows the rules and he's very thorough," said Smith. "He's also a great teacher of the game and really understands the golf swing. Because of his knowledge and analytical mind, he makes real sound decisions in everything he does."

 

Brecht began experiencing renal failure in 1999. He would travel on the LPGA Tour with a portable dialysis machine and come off the course twice a day for treatments in the staff's mobile office.

 

After his kidney transplant in 2000, Stephanie left the LPGA Tour to spend time with him at home in Oklahoma.

 

"Somehow, that little white ball wasn't so important anymore," she said.

 

But it was, after all, that little white ball that brought Doug Brecht and so many of his loved ones together. And it's still the game that serves as motivation for Brecht to return to the LPGA, where he is respected by staff and players alike, and to the practice tee where he has honed his own game for a lifetime.

 

"Even though Doug is not onsite at our tournaments right now, his presence is felt and he's still very much a part of our lives," said Daly-Donofrio. "He has a long road ahead of him, but he's strong-willed, and if anybody can pull out of something like this, I believe Doug can do it."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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