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Cink’s strong round at Valspar nothing to sneeze at

Stewart Cink tees off on the third hole at the Innisbrook Copperhead course in Thursday's first round of the Valspar Championship.  (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Stewart Cink tees off on the third hole at the Innisbrook Copperhead course in Thursday's first round of the Valspar Championship. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Credit: Michael Reaves

Credit: Michael Reaves

So, did you hear the one about the golfer who’s allergic to grass?

While you’re at it, why don’t you tell me about the banker who’s allergic to cash? Or the beat cop with a cruller allergy?

For years, Stewart Cink’s workplace has been a pain in the face. He knew he reacted to a wide variety of stuff that lives outdoors – a double whammy for a pro golfer who makes pollen-saturated metro Atlanta home. Only this year, when he went in for more testing, his condition got even more specifically incongruous.

As he announced on Twitter last month: “What allergen caused the worst reaction in the test today? Bermuda grass. Not a joke!”

And then Cink further entertained his followers with this: “My doc today, while reading the results of my allergy testing, and seeing some severe reactions: ‘Geez I hope you don’t work outside.’”

Well, doc, his outside labors have included six PGA Tour victories, a British Open title and a level of respect that earned him a Payne Stewart Award for character and sportsmanship last year. And Cink wasn’t exactly in a bubble Thursday when he turned in a quite commendable 1-under 70 in the first round of the Valspar Championship – “One of my better rounds of the year,” he said.

Upon finishing the round, one that left him just three strokes off the lead on a tricky course, it was time to not go over birdies and bogeys, but rather to explore the dark recesses of Cink’s sinuses. And it wasn’t pretty.

In three weeks, he’s scheduled to go through his third sinus surgery to remove polyps that, he said, stem from his allergies. “It’s like Roto-Rooter,” he chuckled.

Of course, should Cink somehow win here this week and qualify for the Masters – he isn’t in the field, otherwise – he’ll have to reschedule the nasal plumbing job.

The worst part, he said, are the sinus infections. Seems the condition that keeps pediatricians in silk sheets also troubles certain 44-year-old permanently clogged golf pros.

Allergies have had their way with other golfers, the most noted sufferer being the winner of the 1995 PGA Championship, Steve Elkington. Attacks often would lay him low.

Cink, though, shrugs off any effects his contentious relationship with grass may have on his career. And as his wife has fought the good fight against breast cancer, it probably wouldn’t be good form to complain about the sniffles.

“I’ve been dealing with sinus stuff and allergies for a long time. It’s just a part of life, it could be a lot worse,” he said.

And remember, the pro golfer who’s allergic to grass is still a pro golfer, and that’s a sweet gig.

“It’s just part of the job. I’m outdoors, in all kinds of different environments at the mercy of the weather. It doesn’t diminish that it’s a great job – just a little nuisance, that’s all.”

So, the part-time competitive barbecue chef jokes that he would have really had a problem if he had tested allergic to charred meat.

And he facetiously suggested that the folks back at his home course at East Lake may have to change the greens back to bentgrass from Bermuda just for him.

Cink has no trouble at all laughing at the one about the golfer who’s allergic to grass.

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