Murray High School senior Mary Browder Howell has played golf since she could “hold a club.” It’s been a large part of Howell’s life for years and she typically spends hours practicing everyday.
“I like the challenge of it,” she said. “Everything rests on your shoulders, so you are responsible for all the failures, but you’re also credited for all the successes. You can only rely on yourself. Golf is really just a big analogy for life. I’ve learned a lot about myself through playing golf and hope to continue that into college and beyond.”
Looking back, the 17-year-old reflected on when she developed a stronger attachment to golf. It was during cancer treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a diagnosis she received on Jan. 14, 2014 at age 10. She underwent six rounds of chemotherapy through St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“... that was the only sport I could play at the time,” she explained. “It was no contact and I could still get putting and short games with the (catheter) line in my arm, so that’s really where I developed a love for the game. Short game is still my favorite part of the game to practice.”
Howell joined the high school team in seventh grade and started playing varsity in eighth grade. She’s co-captain, and it’s a duty she takes seriously, noting that she wants to see the younger players succeed.
“Golf is a unique sport in that you’re able to make friends from other teams because it is so individual, so when you’re playing for four, five hours at a time with these girls, you really get to know them really well,” she said.
Howell, daughter of Renee and Jason Howell of Murray, is the Paducah Bank Teen of the Week.
Each Monday and Tuesday, The Sun publishes profile stories on area high school seniors selected from a pool of nominations for Teen of the Week recognition. Around the end of the school year, a committee names one of these students as Teen of the Year. It comes with a $5,000 scholarship. A second student is chosen for the Inspiration Award and a $1,000 scholarship.
Howell has earned a 4.238 weighted cumulative GPA and that ranks her third for her class at Murray High. She also received a 34 composite ACT score and attended the Governor’s Scholars Program this summer.
Outside of golf, Howell is student council president and she has participated in Future Business Leaders of America, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Spanish Club and other activities. She started the Finer Things Club, which aims to prepare students with things like interview skills, personal finance and taxes.
One important activity to Howell is promoting St. Jude. She’s traveled all across the country for fundraising events to deliver speeches, share her story and raise awareness. She credits the hospital for saving her life, adding that she’d been part of a study that focused on reducing side effects of treatment.
“I didn’t have all the nausea, the nerve pain, the vomiting and it also reduced the risk of secondary cancers later in my life, because I didn’t have to have radiation, so St. Jude is not just focused on the cure itself,” she said. “They’re focused on the quality of the cure. They say that one child saved at St. Jude saves thousands worldwide and I can tell you for a fact that’s true.”
It was an “incredibly formative” part of Howell’s life, which gave her perspective for everything else.
“The bad days now don’t really seem that bad, when put in comparison with all of that and what many other patients have had to go through and are continuing to go through,” she said. “I was one of the lucky ones. If you’re going to get cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma is one of the easiest ones. I’m grateful everyday for the opportunities that St. Jude has given me. Not only with saving my life, but preserving my quality of life to be able to play golf and have a good academic career, and just all of the things that a normal kid should be able to do.”
As for the future, she’s undecided on a field of study at this time. Howell narrowed down her list of choices to include Rhodes College, Centre College, Elon University and others. She plans to play golf wherever she goes.
“I’m excited for college,” she said. “I’m excited for a change. I think I’m ready. Of course, I won’t know that until I’m there. I don’t know, I’m just enjoying my time here, but ready for what the future holds.”
By: Kelly Farrell