Golf injury left man with little-known disorder

By Al TaysApril 3, 2013, 5:20 pm

Ever since the accident, John Wynne’s memory hasn’t been so good. But “one funny thing I do remember,” Wynne says. “I remember the center for head injuries’ website said, ‘Play golf, not football.’ That always struck me as funny.”

No wonder. The Cherry Hill, N.J., resident suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) 12 years ago while playing golf. Struck on the left side of his head by a golf club, Wynne, 41, was fortunate not to have been killed. But the TBI affected his ability to walk and talk and remember things, and left him with headaches, tremors and a loss of feeling in his right hand.

There was another effect of the injury, one that baffled and frustrated Wynne until fate finally identified it to him when he picked up a brochure in his doctor’s office.

It's called pseudobulbar affect - PBA. (The A refers to “affect,” as in “affectation,” and is not a misspelling of “effect.”) It’s a neurological disorder often caused by a TBI. In layman’s terms, PBA causes a person’s emotions to go haywire – crying or laughing uncontrollably, sometimes far out of proportion to the sadness or levity of a situation and sometimes in complete contrast to what the person is actually feeling.

“It’s a complete mismatch between your inner feelings and your outward expression of emotion,” Wynne says.

“It’s the most under-diagnosed, under-treated, under-recognized condition around, in my opinion,” says Dr. Jonathan Fellus, a neurologist and chief medical officer of the International Brain Research Foundation, who has treated Wynne for several years. “For that reason, it’s almost like a perverse version of don’t ask, don’t tell. Doctors don’t ask, patients don’t tell.”

John Wynne

A 'one-in-a-million shot'

Wynne never saw the broken-off clubhead that was whizzing toward him on that June day in 2001, randomly and improbably locked on target for his skull like some perimeter-weighted missile. He knew his partner was in the woods to his left, dealing with an errant drive, but Wynne was focused on his own ball and his next shot.

“The next thing I knew I was just laying on the ground,” Wynne says. “It came out awhile later that he had wrapped his club around a tree and the clubhead came off. It was such a freak thing. Such a one-in-a-million shot. I was over 50 feet away from him and it hit me a glancing blow. It hit the left side of my head and knocked a pretty good dent in my head.”

Wynne doesn’t remember whether he lost consciousness, but other details remain clear. He recalls that he and his partner were on the ninth hole at Tamarack Golf Course in East Brunswick, N.J., and that “I had hit a pretty good tee shot.” He remembers that there was an off-duty policeman in the group behind them, who came and stabilized him while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. He remembers that other players behind his group were instructed to move ahead and play the hole as a par 3 until he could be removed.

He remembers “just screwing up everyone’s golf game. I remember feeling embarrassed, of all things.”

The last thing Wynne would want to do is spoil someone else’s golf experience. Growing up in a family of golfers, he inevitably caught the bug himself. “The more I played, the more I loved the game,” he says. It didn’t matter if he couldn’t find anyone else to play with – he wouldn’t hesitate to go out as a single. He’d play before going to his job as a restaurant manager. “I’d already have my sticks in my car.”

Today he belongs to an informal group of about 16 buddies who frequently play together. “We always honor the integrity of the game,” he says. “The more we play, the more we find guys calling penalties on themselves, just respecting the game.”

On the day of the accident, Wynne was playing with a close friend. He prefers not to identify him and doesn’t blame him for what happened, saying, “It was such a freak thing.” They no longer play together, he says, “but not because of what happened.” Wynne says he has tried to call on several occasions, but has gotten no response. He thinks his friend simply does not want to deal with the extreme awkwardness of the incident and its aftermath. “He was probably scared; he probably felt really guilty for almost killing his best friend,” Wynne says.

The road to recovery

Wynne was admitted to nearby Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He remembers being there less than a week, “and then they told me that I could go. They just had to make sure that my brain didn’t swell to a point where they had to do surgery.”

Although doctors told him full recovery would take a year, he went back to work in 4 ½ months. “And I played golf before then,” he said.

He was still participating in occupational and physical therapy to help with his gait (the left-side brain injury had affected his right side) and his speech. He didn’t even realize it had been affected, but people close to him did.

There was another issue as well – a strange one. He would find himself crying or laughing for no reason. At first he brushed it off as a possible side effect of a medication he had been prescribed for depression. Besides, he had other problems that seemed more pressing.

“The worst one was remembering anything,” he says. “I would literally get off a 45-minute phone call and if I didn’t cross that person off my list, I would hang up the phone and call them right back.”

The PBA became more of an issue when he began a relationship with his now-wife, Amie. “We’d be in an argument and he’d be kind of smirking at me, and I was getting really angry because I thought he was not taking it seriously,” Amie says. “So I would get mad at him.

“It took me saying ‘Why are you smirking at me? Why are you laughing at me? It’s not funny.’”

A 'eureka' moment

At the suggestion of one of his sisters, Wynne had begun seeing Fellus, an expert on brain injuries, and doing his own Internet research to try to discover if his laughing/crying condition had a name.

During one visit to Fellus’ office, Wynne happened to pick up a medical brochure. The subject: PBA. It was a “eureka” moment.

“I said, 'You know, I have this.’

“We kind of laughed it off a little bit, and I don’t think until the next visit did he give me the full diagnostic on it.”

Fellus asked Wynne a series of “screening” questions designed to indicate the probability of his having PBA. “And lo and behold, he scored in the range that is highly suggestive for having PBA,” Fellus says.

“And that was really a lesson for me. … I thought I knew him pretty well.”

PBA, Fellus says, is often confused for depression. “Why? Because it occurs in all these neurologic conditions where we could all imagine that the people who have (them), it would be reasonable for them to be depressed.

“I’ve even had many patients who told me that their doctors said, ‘You’re depressed and you don’t know it.’ That’s disturbing to me.”

PBA is little known, Fellus says.

“We used to think it was quite rare. The old statistics in brain trauma quoted it as low as 5 percent. And yet newer studies, better-done studies with a better kind of screening tool, put it at over 50 percent. So it’s not rare. It’s hiding in plain sight. Patients hide it, doctors overlook it or ignore it, they downplay it. Even families downplay it," Fellus says.

“And then patients learn to avoid situations that trigger it, so they become recluses, they become withdrawn, and it becomes a major impact on the quality of life.”

PBA is treatable, but not curable, Fellus adds. Wynne says the medication he takes – neither he nor Fellus wishes to identify it because of privacy considerations – keeps it in check.

"This is a remarkably effective treatment,” Fellus says. “It is rapidly effective. Over half the people who are treated for PBA have a complete remission of their episodes. And it’s a well-tolerated treatment.

“Is it a cure? There are very few cures in all of medicine, and there are even fewer cures in neurology. There’s management of a disease.”

'Hindsight is 20-20'

Wynne can’t help but wonder if his PBA, before he knew what it was, held him back at work, perhaps costing him promotions. “Hindsight is 20-20,” he says, “but there are certain instances where I can go back, glancing at an executive meeting and things like that, (having had reactions) that aren’t appropriate at all.

“I know that I would have felt leery about putting someone like that in charge or giving them more responsibility if they’re not taking something serious.”

He would prefer to look forward, however. He hasn’t lost any of his enthusiasm for golf. His handicap, once as low as 15, ballooned after the accident, but it’s back down in the 18 range now. He can’t hit his driver as far as he used to, but his irons have remained consistent. The loss of feeling in his right hand affects his short game, but he makes do.

He gets “absolutely” as much enjoyment from the game as he did before, “if not more.” He’s passing along his passion to his 4-year-old son, Aeden, who’s already on his second set of clubs, having outgrown the first one. He and Amie also have a 1-year-old daughter, Kaelyn.

“He’s a highly motivated guy,” Fellus says. “He built a family after this, he continued to work and succeed at his job, against the odds.”

“I think the entire thing,” Wynne says, “has helped me to put everything in perspective.”

More information on PBA is available at

Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.

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Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

Joel Dahmen had a 64.

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''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.

Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:33 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.

Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.

Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.

“At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”

Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.

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With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.

“I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.

Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.

Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season. 

“As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.

Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.

Seeking awards sweep, Park 1 off lead

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:03 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made a strong start in her bid to make LPGA history with an epic sweep of the year’s major awards.

Park opened the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a 5-under-par 67, moving her a shot off the lead.

Park is looking to join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park has already clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.

Park, 24, can also walk away with the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.

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Nobody has ever swept all those awards.

There’s even more for Park to claim. She can also take back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She’s No. 2, just two hundredths of a point behind Shanshan Feng.

“I think the course suits my game really well,” Park said through a translator. “I think I can play well in the next rounds.”

Park played the course just once before Thursday’s start, in Wednesday’s pro-am.

The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park won twice this year. She also won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this summer.