Coach with cancer goes to tourney in Las Vegas


Chris Procacina

USI women’s golf coach Don Bisesi is currently living the mind over body philosophy. About a month ago, Besesi was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. But despite the daily radiation and weekly chemotherapy, Besesi contends that his body is feeling fine, and finds a silver lining in his situation.

“I’m just trying to stay real positive about everything and I am (positive). You know, the good thing is, I feel pretty good, and the other good thing is I’ve  lost a little bit of weight,”  Besesi said. “Even though it’s not a regular weight loss, I think that alone has made me feel better because I’ve dropped about 25 pounds.”

Bisesi certainly has plenty to feel good about in the midst of adversity. He allows his mind to focus on other matters, such as the team’s trip to Las Vegas, Nev., for the High Desert Classic Tournament, which he was able to attend.

He made the flight from Florida where he is currently receiving treatment. The women finished 7th out of the 14 teams participating, and were led by senior Taylor Merriss who came in 6th place of the 75 golfers present.

“We’ve had to practice on our own, so everything has been up in the air for us,” Merris said of the team’s preparation.

Despite the unusual start to the season, Bisesi was glad to have the opportunity to be with his team.

“It’s kind of our nice trip. I try to take them to at least one nice place,” Bisesi said. “Plus, the coach likes the go out to Las Vegas.”

This past winter, Bisesi first noticed something was wrong, but he never imagined cancer would be the culprit, he said.

“I was having trouble eating a little bit and, you know, it was kind of getting stuck down in the pit of my stomach and sometimes it would come back up. But I thought I had a hiatal hernia, and I neglected getting that treated,” Bisesi said of his initial symptoms.

Already a little more than a month into treatment, he acknowledged the difficulties in actively participating in team events and the daily activities he has grown accustomed to over the last 14 years at USI.

“I’m involved with a really good hospital down here, it’s called the Cleveland Clinic, and you know I like my doctors and I’d hate to change them,” Bisesi said.

The Cleveland Clinic was recognized by U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of Best Hospitals 2013-2014.

“I’ve talked to some people and in some cases the radiation and the chemo has killed it all off actually,” Bisesi said. “Every cancer is different but at least there is hope for it.”

Bisesi does have his worries, but they just aren’t for the reasons one may assume.

“I’ve got to get Molly (English) healthy,” Bisesi said. “All winter she has had problems with pneumonia and different things. I just hope I can get her healthy for the season.”

Bisesi, who was the first coach in school history to win the team GLVC tournament and the GLVC Coach of the Year award in 2011, has nothing but admiration for how his team has handled the circumstances.

“It’s really a swell bunch of girls,” he said. “They realize they’re going to have to work out on their own a lot and do a lot of practicing on their own, but they all like golf and we have actually a pretty good team.”

Athletic Director Jon Mark Hall and several other USI community members have stepped up to help ease the process of playing without coach Bisesi during his absences.

“Everybody is kind of pitching in and helping and I think the girls are okay with all that,” Bisesi said.

Bisesi has coached the Eagles individually or as a team to qualify for the NCAA postseason for 11 consecutive years.

In August 2005, he was ranked seventh among Indiana golf instructors  by Golf Digest.