Sports & Recreation

Triple Threat

He’s a golf champion and an unwavering basketball fan, but Andy North has a third passion.


Andy North acknowledges the crowd from one of his favorite spots: near the Badger basketball bench at the Kohl Center. His wife, Sue, is shown in the lower right corner. Photo: Andy Manis.

When television cameras zoom in on the Badger basketball bench at away games, they often capture golfer Andy North sitting directly behind the team. Announcers describe him as “U.S. Open champ Andy North,” or “ESPN commentator Andy North,” or, simply, as “the Badgers’ biggest fan.”

All are correct, but they don’t tell the whole story.

Yes, Andy and Sue North have a friendship with coach Bo Ryan and his wife, Kelly, that goes back to the late 1970s, when their young families, and the family of late Wisconsin football coach Dave McClain, lived as neighbors on Madison’s West Side. But the Norths have another UW passion: supporting research at the UW Carbone Cancer Center.

Andy North, a Madison native, says his relationship with the center goes back to when oncologist Paul Carbone treated North’s mother, Mary, for breast cancer. In 1991, North himself became a patient when sun exposure on the golf course led to skin cancer and five surgeries to his nose. Last year, he learned he had prostate cancer — and he scheduled his surgery with UW urologist David Jarrard so he’d be back to the Kohl Center for the Big Ten season. North thinks the cancer center’s excellence needs a big megaphone: “It’s a special place, one of the top cancer centers in the country.”

Since 2009, the Andy North and Friends event has raised nearly $6 million to support research at the cancer center. Coach Ryan and former UW players — including NBAers Greg Stiemsma x’08 and Jon Leuer x’11 — come to golf, as do fellow pro golfers Tom Watson and Annika Sorenstam, ESPN broadcasters Mike Tirico and Scott Van Pelt, and the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers. After six years at North’s Trappers Turn golf course in Wisconsin Dells, the Norths are bringing it home to Madison in 2015, with an event at the new Edgewater, followed by golf at Maple Bluff Country Club.

Beyond the golf course, the Norths like to invite friends to dinner with Carbone researchers such as lymphoma expert Brad Kahl ’89 or Paul Sondel ’71, PhD’75, a member of the national pediatric cancer “dream team.”

“The researchers do an excellent job of explaining how we’re changing things,’’ North says. “People need to know what a special place this is, the research they’re doing, and the people they’re saving.”

Published in the Summer 2015 issue


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