AMERICAN CENTURY CHAMPIONSHIP | Rypien has much to be thankful for |

AMERICAN CENTURY CHAMPIONSHIP | Rypien has much to be thankful for

Steve Yingling

STATELINE – If there is a sentimental favorite for the 21st American Century Championship this week, Mark Rypien certainly qualifies as that celebrity.

Earlier this year, the Super Bowl XXVI most valuable player nearly lost a granddaughter to a bacterial brain infection.

“We almost lost her about six weeks ago,” said Rypien of 1-year-old Malayah, whose bout of strep pneumonia spread into her brain, requiring surgery.

Approximately 10 cubic centimeters of bacteria were removed form Malayah’s brain, then she received five days of antibiotic treatment in the hospital before being released for more antibiotic care at home.

“She’s great, and the prognosis is good. She has been back to her old spitfire self,” Rypien said.

Rypien lost a son, Andrew, to a brain tumor nearly 12 years ago.

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“It was like here we go again. This is almost surreal,” Rypien said.

Rypien’s family has become tighter through the despair. He will have family at the tournament everywhere he turns. Malayah will attend the tournament along with her mother, Angela, as well as Rypien’s second daughter, Ambre, and his two brothers.

“It will be added incentive, kind of an appreciation for life,” Rypien said. “Whatever you do out on the golf course doesn’t matter when you have family here.”

Rypien hasn’t won the celebrity championship since claiming the first title in 1990. He has been close, finishing third in 2004, fourth in 2007 and fifth in 2005.

“I want to do well, and I come into this to do well,” Rypien said. “There is the ulterior motive that if it doesn’t happen, there are a lot of other great things that are going on and a lot more things that you are appreciative of – being here and being alive and having people here that understand the importance of life.”