May 08

Inspiration on Tour – J.B. Holmes

J.B. Holmes Inspirational Return

So, there’s this Kentuckian, J.B. Holmes who plays a really good game of golf, and helped his alma mater win an SEC championship to prove it. He plays in the Curtis Cup. Then, he naturally goes on tour, and does pretty well, including a successful Ryder appearance. As of last week, he’s a three-time winner, taking the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, a course with one of the toughest finishing stretches on tour.

That, by itself, is inspiring. Inspiration is interwoven all over the game of golf. Golf, by its nature, creates a steady supply of it, whether during times of adversity or through the sight of someone overcoming it. Add to that the incredible stories of the catastrophes players have overcome to even reach the professional ranks, much less win there, and you can find something inspiring in every week’s tournament, on any of the tours.

holmes 2 This week, Kentuckian J.B. Holmes, age 36, won the Wells Fargo, and it was a long time and a hard road coming back to play in such a tournament. Holmes withdrew from the 2011 PGA Championship from a bout of vertigo that had gone on for months, and as I am told, vertigo can come from a lot of various causes. What they decided at Johns Hopkins was that Holmes suffered from what they described as “structural defects in the cerebellum known as Chiari malformations.” So, Mr. Holmes goes in for brain surgery that requires taking a piece of his skull away, and some other stuff that I’m not qualified enough to talk about – besides, I’ve just eaten.
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Everyone knows that the human brain is one of those parts we know the least about, that it’s fragile and sensitive, and that most people think it’s not a great idea to get anywhere near it unless one absolutely has to. Johns Hopkins, being the hospital they are, however, finished the operation successfully. One month later, they found that Holmes was allergic to the adhesive used to fix the titanium plate to his skull.

I’m not sure how, but J.B. returned to the tour only a few months later at the beginning of 2012 and played well over twenty events that year. And, by the way, he injured an elbow hitting too many balls on the range, and broke an ankle rollerblading, an activity that should have a eighteen years of age cut-off.

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holmes 1And this week, the man with the healing skull, the bad elbow and a gimpy ankle won the Wells Fargo. And he’s not a croquet-strength type, either. J.B. Holmes is the second longest hitter on tour behind Bubba, and is happy to pull out the driver about sixteen times out of every eighteen. Makes sense to be a few dozen yards up the fairway past your opponent, and even if you’re in the rough once in a while, it’s a shorter out. Sometimes, it even works – just ask John Daley.

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What would I be doing if I’d experienced two brain surgeries, injured an ankle and an elbow? Not golf, certainly, at least not for a long time. I’d probably watch a lot of TV sports, ride around town in a golf cart and take correspondence courses in something or other. But B.J. Holmes is gutsier than that. He’s back, with the same mission he’s always had, and he’s making good on it. When we consider that there are people playing on the tours with restructured skeletal elements, organ and double-organ transplants, people who have overcome tremendous adversity in their backgrounds or life-threatening illnesses, it is inspiring to see them come back to a mentally healthy game played in the healthy arena of nature itself – and once in a while, they come back so well that they win, and win big. It appears that J.B.’s brain, elbow and ankle are all working just fine, and I’ll bet he’s not done. Congrats to him, and best wishes down the road.

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