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Elkington Withdraws Due to Caddie

August 12, 1999

MEDINAH, Ill. (AP) _ His caddie’s health means more to Steve Elkington than the PGA Championship.

The 1995 PGA winner withdrew from this year’s tournament about an hour before he was to tee off Thursday after his longtime caddie, Joe Grillo, was taken to the hospital complaining of chest pains. Grillo was in stable condition in the intensive care unit at Glen Oaks Hospital, hospital spokeswoman Chris Prester said.

``He (Grillo) said he was glad he got the proper care on time and he is doing well,″ Prester said.

Grillo was waiting for Elkington to arrive at Medinah Country Club when he began complaining of shortness of breath and dizziness. Paramedics put him on a gurney just as Elkington arrived, and Grillo tried to convince him to play. But after 45 minutes passed without any word on his condition, Elkington withdrew and drove to the hospital.

He stayed with Grillo until early in the afternoon. He was replaced by Bob Friend.

``There was no other decision,″ Elkington told GolfWeb.com. ``It was the only one I could make.″

Elkington’s decision wasn’t a surprise, said Greg Norman, one of his best friends. Grillo has been Elkington’s caddie for years, and the two are very close, Norman said.

``We’re all very close to our caddies. Outside of our wives, they’re the person we spend the most time with,″ Norman said. ``I’d withdraw, too. I wouldn’t hesitate.″

Elkington might have additional empathy because of his own history of health problems. He was hospitalized in January 1994 with a viral infection and spent the first part of the year recuperating. While he was hospitalized, a malignant growth was removed from his shoulder and he had surgery to correct a sinus problem.

He needed additional surgery for the sinus problem in March 1998, and was hospitalized later that spring for viral meningitis.

``He (Grillo) probably means a lot more to him than any golf tournament,″ said Tony Navarro, a friend of Grillo and Norman’s caddie.

Grillo never complained about heart problems before, but he wasn’t in the best shape and occasionally had trouble walking the golf course, Navarro said.

One of the most popular caddies on the tour, Grillo has been a tireless advocate for his co-workers. He started a kitchen so caddies could be assured of a reasonably cheap meal, driving a motor home from tournament to tournament and often cooking food himself.

He usually acts as an organizer at tournaments, arranging hotels and shuttle service to the golf courses.

``He’s one of the greatest guys in the world and probably my dearest friend,″ Navarro said. ``He’s one of everybody’s favorites out here.″

This is the second straight PGA Tour event in Chicago in which a caddie has had heart problems.

During the Western Open last month, caddie Garland Dempsey’s heart stopped and he collapsed while walking off the 15th tee during the third round. Paramedics had to use a defibrillator to restart his heart.

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