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Golfer Jennifer Kupcho Wins Historical Tournament With Blurred Vision From Migraine

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If you live with chronic illness or chronic pain, you might know what it feels like to experience sudden flare-ups from time to time. Symptoms can come out of nowhere, even when you feel prepared.

This is exactly what happened to amateur golfer and Wake Forest University senior Jennifer Kupcho at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur tournament on April 6. Her competitor had just taken the lead when a migraine suddenly appeared, causing her vision to blur.

Thankfully, Kupcho’s caddie, Brian McKinley, was able to help her. While a caddie assists a golfer by carrying their clubs, they also provide moral support. In this case, McKinley was able to provide the sight Kupcho needed.

“I relied on him for the yardages and the reads on the greens,” Kupcho told The Mighty. “He would tell me the distance and then I would be able to hit it. When I had the blurred vision, he was my eyes on the course.”

Migraine is a neurological condition that often involves severe pain or throbbing in the head. Migraine with aura, a type of ocular migraine approximately 25 to 30 percent of migraineurs experience, typically presents with visual symptoms that come on fast and resolve quickly as well. The visual symptoms of migraine with aura tend to last less than an hour and may or may not be followed by head pain.

Though her flare-up was distracting and the symptoms of her migraine caused her to lose the lead, Kupcho’s competitive spirit never wavered. She did her best to stay focused and channeled any leftover energy into getting rid of her migraine. Kupcho explained:

Golf is such a long game, that in between shots there is a chance to kind of zone out. One of the main things I did during that time was to close my eyes and take deep breaths. I was really focusing on being able to relax in that moment to help the migraine go away.

Kupcho made her comeback as vision and migraine started to improve, winning the first Augusta National Women’s Amateur. The competition marked the first time women were allowed to compete at the Augusta National Golf Club, which famously hosts the annual Masters Tournament.

“I have dealt with them so many times before that I knew what worked to ease the discomfort,” Kupcho said of the migraine attack. “I was just frustrated that it happened at that time, in probably the biggest moment of my life.”

Kupcho has been living with migraine for years and usually takes time off whenever she has an attack. It’s not her normal to play through a flare-up.

“I started getting migraines in high school and have only gotten them a few times on the golf course,” Kupcho said. “I think it has impacted my life more in terms of causing me to miss practice at times. Obviously, you aren’t going to force yourself to play through one in practice, but if it happens during a tournament, you have to get through it the best you can.”

A migraine attack can be debilitating, especially if it comes out of nowhere. Kupcho’s experience demonstrates how suddenly symptoms can develop. With chronic illness, how you feel can sometimes change in an instant. One moment you might feel perfectly fine and the next, your vision could be blurred and your head might be throbbing.

If you tend to experience sudden migraine attacks and need help with managing the symptoms, check out these 12 migraine-soothing products people swear by or these 10 ‘pocket-sized’ items that can help relieve pain during a migraine attack.


Originally published: April 15, 2019
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