Joe Willis had to withdraw from last year’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, but not for the normal reasons. He didn’t injure himself, get sick or have a job/family commitment. Nope. It was much bigger than that. It was to help save a life, specifically his older brother.
Kyle Willis, now 35, had been diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder 12 years ago that didn’t seem life-threatening at the outset. For 10 years, everything was stable. Two years ago, however, he began feeling ill, and his kidneys worsened to the point they were functioning at 15 percent. Dialysis wasn’t required, but a transplant would alleviate the problem.
In stepped Joe, six years his junior. With a perfect match, Kyle received one of Joe’s kidneys a year ago.
The six-week recovery period took Joe, of Lake Bluff, Ill., out of the Four-Ball, but the USGA granted him and his former Yale University teammate, Jonathan Lai, a special medical exemption into the 2023 championship.
Kyle, a father of two children, has fully recovered and healthy enough to caddie for Joe this week at Kiawah Island Club.
For Joe, saving a life was far more important than saving par.