From Hospital to US Open in 18 Months

By Associated PressJune 11, 2008, 4:00 pm
2008 U.S. OpenSAN DIEGO -- Brian Kortan felt the pain in his chest, then his jaw, then the heaviness in his arms. He put on his T-shirt and shorts, walked upstairs to his buddys room and said, Cmon, weve got to get to the emergency room.
He was having a heart attack, and when a man is 35 years old and having a heart attack'a so-called widow maker thats caused by blockage of the left anterior descending artery'its not uncommon for that trip to the emergency room to be the last trip he takes.
Kortan survived that scare in August 2006, and the fact that hes still around to talk about it means that, in many ways, hes already playing in the bonus round of life.
That he is also playing in the U.S. Open'well, thats just another one of those dreams that Kortan can check off his list.
Its going to be a great, gratifying experience, he said.
He will be there at 9:01 a.m. Thursday on the first tee box at Torrey Pines, 14 clubs in the bag, a handful of well-wishers on the other side of the ropes and a defibrillator near his heart. The defibrillator, about the size of a cell phone, was surgically implanted about a year ago.
Odds are, he wont win a championship this week. But then again, does he really have to be holding a trophy on Sunday to be called a champion?
He got his second chance, and slowly but surely hes been making it, said Kortans wife, Elaine. Id say playing in the U.S. Open is going to be a highlight for him.
Only the hardcore golf fans will remember Kortan.
He spent 2004 on the PGA TOUR. Made eight cuts. Earned almost $160,000. But that wasnt enough, and so he went back down to the Nationwide Tour in 2005. Lost his card there, too, though that turned out to be the least of his problems.
He knew of heart problems on his mothers side of the family but never did much about it. He is listed at 5-foot-3, 150 pounds and said those numbers were about the same before the heart attack. His cholesterol was low. He never had trouble walking the hundreds of miles of fairways he traversed each year as a pro golfer. He felt the occasional pains in his chest and a tightening of the jaw'the classic symptoms of heart problems, he said'but never thought much of that, either.
I was just completely naive, he said.
Staying at his friends house while playing on the South Dakota Tour, he made it to the hospital quickly enough on the night of the heart attack for doctors to save his life.
He emerged having lost about 40 to 50 percent of his heart function.
Ive had some changes in my life, I guess, he said.
He works out more. Eats better. He and Elaine keep better track of what their kids, 3-year-old Beau and 7-year-old Cade, are eating, too. Kortans mother got a check-up after Brians scare, and she had six stents put in her heart. Brian has three.
Golf, however, has not been put on the back burner.
Once you get past the top of this list'family and friends and things' golf is what makes me who I am. It makes me the person I am, Kortan said. It will be there. It will be there when Im done. When I hang the clubs up and decide to do something different someday, its still going to be a part of me.
After leaving the hospital and recuperating for a bit, doctors gave Kortan the go-ahead to get back into competition mode. But after a scare with some readings in his heart function, they insisted he take a break and go home to Albuquerque, N.M., to have a defibrillator implanted in his chest.
Its a small device that monitors the activity in his heart. If things arent operating normally, the device can shock his heart back into normalcy.
Fortunately, mine hasnt had to kick in yet, Kortan said. But its even to the point where, if it does, if I went into some sort of cardiac arrhythmia, it would actually shock me. And when it does shock you, it puts you to the floor.
But Kortan doesnt wait around wondering if thats going to happen.
He lives, plays golf, goes about his business the way a perfectly healthy person would. Walking Torrey Pines wont be nearly as hard for him, he says, as some of the tracks hes walked on the PGA TOUR'Castle Pines at 7,000 feet, or Memphis at 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity.
Yes, there will be stress this week, but doctors told him that shouldnt stop him from competing, either. After all, what job doesnt have stress?
He takes precautions, but he doesnt worry about anything, Elaine said. The defibrillator is the backup and he knows its there.
His golf game, as should be clear, is rounding back into form. He made it through two rounds of U.S. Open qualifying and was the medalist at the sectional round in Littleton, Colo.
He has finished in the top 5 three times on the Adams Pro Golf TOUR this year, and there are possible paths back to the big time for him, maybe via the Nationwide Tour'or maybe based on something that happens this week.
But even if this week ends early, it would be hard to call it anything but a success.
Im glad Im able to have this experience, Kortan said, because there were definitely some times over the last year and a half that I didnt know if Id ever get to experience something like this ever again.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Open
  • Getty Images

    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

    Getty Images

    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

    Getty Images

    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

    Getty Images

    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.