LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The story is still just as powerful now, even though time has passed. To see Audrey Leishman cheer her husband on to victory Sunday at the BMW Championship while holding her 2-month-old baby, you’d never know the dire situation she faced just more than two years ago.
Back then, Marc Leishman was rushing home from Augusta National where he was preparing for the Masters as his wife was facing a diagnosis of sepsis, a life-threatening compilation of bacterial infections that caused doctors to induce a coma. She was given just a 5 percent chance of survival.
Complications lasted for more than a year — Audrey could only watch her husband lose a playoff at St. Andrews that summer while enduring one of her many bad days — and only started to feel well in the spring of 2016.
Sunday’s victory at Conway Farms gave him a second victory this year after winning at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March.
With a final-round 67 and a 5-shot victory against Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose, Leishman improved his position in the FedEx Cup standings, moving up to fourth and giving himself a shot at the overall title next week in Atlanta.
Perhaps it is not a coincidence.
“I think when things are good and settled in your personal life, it makes it easier to perform in your professional life,” Audrey Leishman said while her husband was being congratulated by fellow players. “We’ve had a great year personally, professionally. We’re really happy and blessed.”
Two weeks after letting a lead slip away on the back nine of the Dell Technologies Championship, Leishman, 33, bounced back to lead wire-to-wire at the third FedEx Cup playoff event.
By shooting 23 under par, he won for the third time in his PGA Tour career and moved up to 15th in the Official World Golf Ranking while doing more to make a name for himself not just among Australian golfers.
“I think he’s a great player, especially knowing him and playing amateur golf against him,” said fellow Aussie Jason Day, who finished fourth. “I don’t think he may have projected himself standing where he is today when we were sitting on a back tee when I was 16. He’s done a tremendous job getting to where he is. I think there’s still a ton left in the tank for him.”
While Leishman opened the tournament with rounds of 62 and 64, he had to withstand the challenges of Day playing with him in the third round and Fowler in the fourth.
“Marc’s a world-class player now,” Fowler said. “He’s got the power, he hits it plenty far. He made plenty of big putts today especially coming down the stretch, made some good swings. He’s definitely not someone that you look past. I think maybe that’s been the case in the past, but I now us as players, it’s never really been that way.”
Leishman takes it as a compliment that he is considered underrated by his peers.
“I think my good stuff is really good,” he said. “I just have to do it more often. I think if I do it more often that will change.”
Before now, Leishman might have best been known for playing alongside countryman Adam Scott when he won the Masters in 2013. Or for that playoff loss at The Open in 2015, just a few months after Audrey’s worst days.
Not only did she have the sepsis diagnoses, but then had to deal with acute respiratory distress syndrome and post sepsis syndrome. It wasn’t until she had her tonsils removed in May, 2016 that she began to feel better.
“Because of that there is so much fatigue, muscle weakness, brain fog … so much that people don’t understand,” she said. “They think you leave the hospital and are going to bounce back. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. I’m lucky. One, I survived. I have all my limbs. I know quadruple-amputees from sepsis.”
In the aftermath, the Leishmans — who live in Virginia Beach, Virginia — started The Begin Again Foundation to help families who have gone through sepsis and toxic shock syndrome.
And since this is Sepsis Awareness Month, Leishman asked fellow players to wear a ribbon on their hats this week to show support and bring attention to the illness.
“A lot of people don’t know what sepsis is,” Leishman said. “I didn’t know what it was when Audrey got sick. I googled it and I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s not good.’
“If you can catch it early, it’s antibodies, probably in the hospital for a day and see you later. If you don’t catch it early enough there’s probably going to be a funeral not too far down the road. If you catch it early, it’s treatable most of the time.”
The Leishmans did not catch it early, but Audrey survived, then fought the aftermath while Marc tried to play golf and look after their two small children. It puts winning a golf tournament — or hitting poor shots for that matter — into perspective.
And the irony wasn’t lost on Audrey that the week everyone was helping raise awareness for the disease that nearly killed her, Marc Leishman won the biggest tournament of his career.
“It’s amazing to see all these ribbons on these guys’ hats and for this to be the one he wins it adds another level. It’s amazing,” she said. “That’s God right there.”