News Seth Stratton | 6 years ago

Former Pro Golfer and Announcer Giving a Voice to Alzheimer’s

After a successful career on the European and PGA tours, and two decades calling some of golf's greatest moments, Peter Oosterhuis and his wife, Roothie, are taking on a new challenge, Alzheimer's disease. Shortly after Peter Oosterhuis was diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease in 2014, he came to Carolinas HealthCare System for treatment. The longtime CBS golf broadcaster and seven-time European Tour winner and his wife, Roothie, initially kept the diagnosis a secret but went public about Peter’s diagnosis this summer to raise awareness about the disease and, ultimately, help find a cure. “We want to give a voice and a face to this disease and we want to give others who get diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a better chance than we have,” Roothie says. Oosterhuis, 67, had a storied career in golf. He won the Canadian Open in 1981, and in the 1977 he shot to fame when he defeated Jack Nicklaus in the prestigious Ryder Cup. He started playing as a junior golfer in England when he was 12 and went on to play for Great Britain in the Walker Cup. Throughout his 11-year PGA career, he took home more than 20 titles worldwide. Oosterhuis retired from his 20-year broadcasting career earlier this year, according to “I guess I was lucky to have a natural aptitude for the game,” Oosterhuis says. “When I was playing for fun one day, somebody asked me if I was planning on going pro and I hadn’t even thought that was a possibility.” That sentiment sort of sums ups his career. “I think Ian Baker French (another former pro golfer) said it best when he described my husband as the most humble person in golf,” Roothie says. In 1995, Oosterhuis began to work as a golf analyst for BBC, CBS Sports and the Golf Channel. He and his wife traveled the world together for years. Then, in 2010, Oosterhuis and his wife noticed changes in his memory and behavior. The couple went in for testing and the results confirmed that Oosterhuis had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. “We had to come face to face with Alzheimer’s and deal with it,” Roothie says. “Our life totally changed. It’s a devastating diagnosis and it takes a long time to accept it. At first, it didn’t seem real to me.” Oosterhuis was referred to Oleg Tcheremissine, MD, director of research at Carolinas HealthCare System, who enrolled Oosterhuis in a clinical trial that uses a drug that could slow the progression of the disease. “The study is looking at what might be causing Alzheimer’s disease, which we believe to be amyloid plaques,” Dr. Tcheremissine says. “We are looking to see if this particular medication can target those plaques and slow the growth. I have high hopes this pharmacological agent will be first in its class.”
Peter Oosterhuis (from left) and wife Roothie were joined by his doctor, Oleg Tcheremissine, MD, and nurse Allison Newell Sturdivant, at the Alzheimer's Association Walk in Charlotte in September. Peter Oosterhuis (from left) and wife Roothie were joined by his doctor, Oleg Tcheremissine, MD, and nurse Allison Newell Sturdivant, at the Alzheimer's Association Walk in Charlotte in September.
Dr. Tcheremissine began to work tirelessly on Alzheimer’s research following his mother’s diagnosis of the disease. His mother died four years after her diagnosis and since then, Dr. Tcheremissine devotes his time to patients like Oosterhuis and their caregivers. “Most people do not realize the magnitude of people who have Alzheimer’s across the world,” he says. “Every 67 seconds there is a patient diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.” Dr. Tcheremissine’s involvement in clinical trials will be instrumental in the development of new medications for this disease. “Clinical trials are the cornerstone of developmental drugs and Carolinas HealthCare System puts tremendous effort in identifying patients in a variety of disease stages who may benefit from the trials,” Dr. Tcheremissine says. “Because of this, we are able to identify, diagnose and connect our patients to the specialized care they need.”