SPRINGFIELD – In golf and in life, pitfalls and plain bad luck are par for the course. The mark of a strong player is in how well one recovers from fate’s errant swings.

Emily Canham, a business administration major at University of Illinois Springfield and a recreational soccer player, was just 21 years old when she experienced a series of mini-strokes in November 2021.

Canham, now 22, is serving as an event intern for the Memorial Health Championship presented by LRS. The tournament, part of the Korn Ferry Tour, runs through July 17 at Panther Creek Country Club in Springfield.

“I like being in the chaos of organizing events,” said Canham, a 2018 Springfield High School graduate, who, in addition to her business administration major at UIS, has a strong interest in sports management. “I feel working for this tournament is a perfect fit.”

Canham’s work experience is all the more important to her because proceeds from the golf tournament benefit the Memorial Health hospital foundations. Canham credits the clinical staff at Springfield Memorial Hospital for her fast and full recovery after her stroke episode.

 “I had just returned from a soccer game so I was tired and sitting in bed when I started to feel weird,” said Canham, who lives with her parents, Cathy and Kevin, in Springfield.

Canham recalled watching her right arm go limp.

“I called out to my mom,” said Canham, “and, as my mom was responding to my calls for help, I remember she told me she couldn’t understand what I was saying.”

In a panic, Canham left her bed and went into a hallway, where she saw in a mirror that her face was drooping. “I couldn’t get words out, and I’d lost feeling in my face,” said Canham. “I just stared at my mom and started crying.”

As Canham’s mother tried to make sense of what was happening, Canham fell into a seizure.

Canham was admitted to the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit at Springfield Memorial Hospital – she tested positive for COVID-19 at the hospital – where she would spend the next five days.

“My family couldn’t visit me in person because of COVID-19 restrictions,” said Canham. “But the nurses and doctors were so accommodating. A few of the nurses would come into my room and just hang out with me so I didn’t feel alone, and I really appreciated that.”

In her role with the Memorial Health Championship, the personal interaction with tournament organizers and participants energizes Canham the most.

 “It’s been very hands-on, and I love that I’m learning through doing,” said Canham, whose main role with the tournament has been as coordinator of the honorary observers program. The honorary observers program allows guests inside-the-ropes access to watch tournament play up-close.

Canham considers herself lucky to have no lingering effects from her stroke.

 “I don’t feel [experiencing a stroke] has changed a lot about my life because I didn’t do anything to cause it to happen to me,” said Canham. “So I’m essentially doing what I was doing before – I’m still playing soccer in my recreational league; I’m still living my life as I was.

“If anything has changed, it’s in the amount of gratitude I feel for the people in my life – my family, the doctors who went out of their way to see me and all the people who have helped me get from there to here.”


-Courtesy of Memorial Health