60-year-old pro makes PGA Tour debut at Sony Open after surviving cancer

Michael Castillo was diagnosed with colon cancer over four years ago, but on Thursday, he made his debut on the PGA Tour and could be on the verge of remission.

Matt Chivers's picture
Fri, 13 Jan 2023
60-year-old pro makes PGA Tour debut at Sony Open after surviving cancer

Michael Castillo is the head professional at the Plantation Course at Kapalua, which hosted Jon Rahm's incredible victory last week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

The 60-year-old qualified for this week's Sony Open by winning the Aloha PGA Section back in September. This was all the more special as his father was an assistant at the club in the 1970s and he and his brothers worked at Waialae Country Club during high school.

The family ties to the venue are one thing, but this week in Honolulu is even more special as Castillo has had to battle his way through cancer treatment for over four years to get to this point.

Ahead of the tournament, Castillo told the PGA Tour that he was diagnosed with colon cancer which spread to his liver. After going through chemotherapy, the cancer spread to his lungs and in November just gone, the cancer appeared on his liver again.

Castillo shot 9-over on Thursday, but his score was meaningless. He was able to see people he hadn't seen for a while during yesterday's first round and soak in the event held at a place which means a lot to him and his family.

He is suspected to be the Sony Open's oldest-ever debutant. He has been a PGA pro for more than 30 years and he chose the perfect venue to step foot at a PGA Tour event for the first time with his brother Joey on the bag as well.

"Since the cancer journey, I guess perspective to life is a little different for sure, but I've been playing this game for, you know, 50 years. It's hard to turn off your instinct of playing the game and what it means to you to play the game and how you play it," Castillo said on Thursday.

"So throughout the day I really didn't think too much about it. I spoke with Scott (Harrington) today and his wife is going through a journey like I am, which is something that was interesting today. I didn't know that.

"I guess the surprising thing is I was very comfortable playing golf today. Didn't feel like I needed to settle my nerves I guess. I think my life journey maybe is part of it," he added.

"Maybe it's the fact that everyone is making me feel comfortable here. Maybe playing this game for such a long time you figure out how to make it work even though it is an important round of golf."

Castillo told the media that if everything appears well in his next scan in February, he can move into remission. The fairytale continues on Friday and his story has already reached people across the country.

"My sister who posted some things on social media, she said, you know, you realise that you are influencing people with what you have accomplished through the journey of cancer," he said.

"I said, yeah, you know, I got a call from a person, I haven't called them back, from the east coast telling me about his story about his wife and she's cancer free. He's willing to reach out to me to share the experience and the treatments they took to maybe help me.

"Someone I've never known called me on my phone at work and I retrieved the call but and haven't called them back. It's pretty darn cool."