First Round of Season Awaits & Waits
By DougE on 3/16/11
We asked for readers to send in blog posts- and Doug "DougE" Ely did not disappoint.

Well, it's been a long, hard winter here in the northeast. Unfortunately for me, not long enough, as I'll explain in a minute.

With the snow finally starting to clear and the sun higher in the afternoon sky, giving us daytime temperatures in the high 40s-50, there are signs of activity at some of the local golf courses. There are cars in the lot, people milling around the pro shop and workers are out and about trying to ready everything as best as possible for opening day, which seems like it will be within a week or two. (This assumes, of course, that Mother Nature has no cold, white tricks still up her sleeve.)

To most of you, this is all a welcome sight. After one of the worst winters on record, which looked as if it would be June before all the snow was gone, you are now actually thinking that you'll be out there playing your first 18 of the spring, maybe even before winter officially ends! You can taste it. Only a few days away! For all of you, I feel your excitement. For me, not so much.

Yes, this is a "woe-is-me" story. Please feel sorry for DougE, that's me.

I'm 3½ months out of shoulder surgery to repair a full-thickness rotator cuff tear on my LEFT side with "subtropical decompression and debridement" of the surrounding bone. (I guess that means they cut away and filed down the bone to allow more access for the repaired tendon to move.) Bottom line: longer recovery than a simple tear, more pain……less golf.

Funny thing is, last year I played nearly 100 rounds of golf and practiced another 40 days or so. I started the year with a small rotator cuff tear in my RIGHT shoulder. It hurt quite a bit even before the season started. I had physical therapy on it through the '09/'10 winter and finally a cortizone shot before the start of the season. Then, before I signed up for seasonal membership at my local club, I spoke with the management to be sure I could get some sort of rebate or credit if, in fact, it didn't hold up and I had to have surgery on it during the season. As it turned out, though it hurt quite a lot whenever I played 3 or 4 days in a row, I was able to make it almost through the season, only twice having to take a few extra days off to give the inflammation time to calm down. As the fall approached, I started to notice some stiffness in my LEFT shoulder, but I have had problems with that one for years, on and off, so wasn’t too worried about it. But, it continued to get worse. And, worse.

My friend Richard invited me to play in his club's 3-day Member-Guest Tourney in October on Dataw Island, near Hilton Head, in South Carolina. As the trip approached, not only did my right shoulder start to scream, but now my left one was doing the same. My official GHIN handicap was technically 11 at the time, but due to my shoulder issues, I was playing more like an 18 by the time I showed up on his doorstep. Suffice it to say, finishing in the middle of our flight was quite an accomplishment. I was the lowest handicap of all the pairings we played against, but pretty much everyone kicked my butt. Thankfully, Richard played good enough for both of us.

After the tournament, as part of the plan, we headed up to Myrtle Beach to play with one of Richard’s buddies, who has a place at Barefoot Resorts. We were gonna play three of the four Barefoot courses, but after playing the Love course on the first day and the Dye course the next, both with great pain, I could no longer move my left shoulder the following morning. I had played 5 rounds in 6 days, albeit not very well, and my shoulders finally said NO, you’re done. So, basically, I went home a day early to Connecticut without really enjoying a single good round of golf in South Carolina. Very frustrating. (Woe is me.)

I gave the shoulders a week or so to calm down, then went out and tried again on my home course late in October. Since big swings were painful, my short game was my focus. I practiced chips and pitches every day. Buckets and buckets worth. Within a week, I was playing good golf again, yet my left shoulder continued to worsen to a point of near uselessness. I knew I could not go through another season like this and decided then that I needed to have surgery. After a season dealing mostly with terrible RIGHT shoulder pain, it was my LEFT one that needed the surgery first. Go figure. Though I work with my hands and arms restoring and repairing boats for a living, which had my shoulders in pain all the time, golf was the instigating factor for my decision to have the surgery. If I can’t play golf, to what would I have to look forward?

As surgery day approached, I squeezed in a couple more 9-hole rounds. I wanted to play 18, but the pain was just too much. However, each 9-hole round I did play was quite satisfying on the one hand, and frustrating on the other. I was playing some pretty good golf, but I knew the surgery was going to set me back a bunch of strokes when I was finally ready to play again.

So all winter, since November 30, I have been recovering. I could not even move my left arm for the first three weeks. The doctor told me before the surgery that I would probably be able to play a little golf by late April or May, if I eased into it and the recovery goes as planned. In my mind, April was late, but acceptable. I usually am out there in March, ready to play after practicing inside all winter on a small range I have set up in my workshop. Obviously, winter practice to keep the swing in shape was not an option this year.

I have been in physical therapy since three weeks after the surgery. I am starting to build some strength, though far too slowly for my impatient mind. In February, I had planned to be visiting relatives in Florida and had hoped I’d be able to practice a little putting and chipping by then. That didn’t work out. The temps were in the high 70’s and sunny the entire trip. It was gorgeous. And, I could not even swing a club enough to chip. The pain was as bad as ever during the trip in my RIGHT shoulder. Since I only had my right arm to use all winter after the surgery, and that arm still has a torn rotator cuff, the extra usage really took a toll on it. So while my left one slowly healed, the right one got far worse. I began to think I would never play golf again. (I’m still not so sure I'll be able to play well again, at least until I get surgery on the right one, after which I’ll have to wait ANOTHER 6-12 months for full recovery. Woe is me.)

So, here we are a few days or so from opening day at my local club here in Connecticut. And, I am not even close to being able to tee it up. However, over the last week or so, as my left shoulder has continued to improve, and my range of motion increases, it has taken some of the workload back from my sore right one. This has allowed for a reduction in my right shoulder inflammation and ultimately my breaking out some short clubs to feel in my hands. I finally started to take a few 1/2 swings with my wedges, hitting rubber balls off the mat in my shop. Everything feels foreign, but the pain isn‘t as bad as last month, in either shoulder. At least, not today.

I have a long way to go and though my left shoulder should be ready for a full, but easy driver swing in another month or so, there is still the question of how my right one will hold up for another season of constant golf. I'm hopeful, but not too optimistic. Considering I already had a partial tear in that rotator cuff tendon before the start of last season, God only knows how much worse it has gotten after so much golf last year.

I held off on purchasing a club membership this year, just in case, and will have to suck it up and just pay cash for the greens fee each round. Expensive and inconvenient. I'll live. Maybe it will make me play more rounds without a cart to save a few bucks and, as a result, I'll get healthier along the way.

My physical therapy continues on both shoulders and I'm hopeful that my season won’t be too far behind all of yours. It’s supposed to be near 50 today. The sun is shining and I can feel spring in the air. Normally I am so psyched when it gets like this. This year, however, I wish the snow didn’t melt 'til June. I hate the fact that you are all going to be months ahead of me. When you finally see a new score entered on my OOB page, please remember, it's just a start after a long painful, unproductive winter AND spring. (I’m already making excuses.) As my surgeon told me, my handicap will go up when I finally start playing again, but that should draw in the competition enough, so that maybe by late summer, I’m the one with a pocket full of cash after each round. I'm counting on that.

In the meantime, I am so jealous of all you guys who will be out there kicking off the season over the next few weeks. Hope you all enjoy it, but please don’t get too good, too fast. I'll need to catch up. And, let’s not forget, I still have a very bad right shoulder, which will likely get worse. (Woe is me.) So, for this coming season anyway, I'll always have an excuse in case I can‘t catch up.

Now go out there and play. I hope to be out there myself, at least half as good as new in a couple months. See you then.

This was written by Doug Ely, a reader/follower/fellow oober and the opinions are 100% his and do not necessarily reflect those of oobgolf in anyway. Enjoy! I'm sure he's ready for your feedback.

photo source

[ comments ]
dpoimboeuf says:
My rotator cuff tear was more like your right than left, but I was out several weeks for surgery and PT. If it's any consolation, I shot my then career round on my first time out after recovery. Your body compensates for injury and it changes your swing, usually not for the better. Swinging pain free is one of the best ways to improve. Best of luck! Long term, your golf game will be much better by taking care of your injury.
bkuehn1952 says:
It was 2 years ago when I broke my ankle on the eve of golf season. While my layoff was only about 30 days, I can understand the angst of sitting on the sidelines. If you can practice chip shots and putting, like I did wearing my "boot", it helps some. Right now the day you return healthy and ready seems far off but it will come. Look on the bright side, you will have more time to write additional posts for Oob!
SD Charlie says:
I say take your time Doug, and become a lights out putter!
bducharm says:
Any time the weather is good and you cannot play, it is bad! I had 18" of intestines removed in January and couldn't play for 3 weeks. I chipped and putted and can see the difference. Take it slow Doug.
Torleif Sorenson says:
I don't want to dog-pile on the sob-story thing because Doug, Brian, and @dpoimboeuf have had legitimate injuries to their bodies. But I've gone through a seven-year injury to my wallet -- as a divorced dad. My last round was last year, and that was the first time out since 2003. But I bought a junior-size set of clubs for my awesome son and (since I can't afford to drive) have been doing some research work here on oobGolf instead.

@SD Charlie is right on: If putting, chipping, and short game practice pass muster with your doctor, Doug, go for it. I sincerely wish you a complete and pain-free recovery regardless of the time-frame.
Clint24 says:
Now that is no feel good story. Hate it for you man. Good luck with everything!
Kurt the Knife says:
anybody remember the SNL pair of Willie and Frankie?
Willie: Yeah, I know what you mean. You know, the other day, I took one o' them, uh--?
Frankie: Meat thermometers?
Willie: Yeah! And I just shoved it into my ear, you know? As far as it could go, you know? But then I took one o' them, uh--?
Frankie: Ball-peen hammers?
Willie: Right. And just whacked it a few times right in there, you know.
Frankie: Boy, that must smart.
Willie: I know! I HATE when THAT happens.
Frankie: like the time I stapled baloney to my face
Wille: or when I shaved my heiney with one o them double edged disposable razaors n squatted in a bowl of gin.
Frankie: oo I hate when that happens
DougE says:
Thanks guys, for all your sympathy. It helps just knowing other golfers can relate. I have started chipping around the yard and have the okay from my physical therapist to do some easy pitching. However, a driver swing still seems a month off, or more.

Good luck out there. Hope to be out there with you soon.
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