Snyder returns to Tour after six years of medical mysteries

By Jason SobelMay 16, 2012, 4:05 pm

IRVING, Texas – Joey Snyder III woke up early Monday morning in his family’s Scottsdale, Ariz., home and explained to his two young daughters that he needed to go to work.

Sophie, 5, and Caroline, 3, were confused at first, then upset that their dad was leaving. They didn’t understand. They couldn’t understand.

One of the most commonly asked questions in our society is, “So, what do you do for a living?” yet for so many of us the answer is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum.

All across Hollywood, there are actresses who spend their days reciting lunch specials for 10 bucks an hour. Check into your local Jiffy Lube and a race car driver may change your oil filter. Even serious artists are biding their time as sandwich artists.

For the past six years, Snyder has been a PGA Tour golfer who doesn’t play golf.

It wasn’t always this way. After nine years of trying to reach his dream, the Arizona State University alum finished T-13 at Q-School in 2004, earning full-time status for the 2005 season. His rookie campaign was an unabashed success, as Snyder made the cut in 20 of 31 starts, earning more than $1 million and – most importantly – keeping his card for the next season.

His sophomore year, though, didn’t go nearly as smoothly. Snyder missed his first five cuts of the season, and  then on March 5, while hitting balls on the practice range at Doral, he started feeling intense pain in the right side of his neck and right shoulder.

“Rocco Mediate was next to me and he just started picking up all my practice balls and putting them in his pocket,” Snyder recalls. “He’s like, ‘Dude, go home.’”

What followed next was a confluence of medical head-scratchers and misdiagnoses that were as confounding as the injury itself.

It took six weeks for Snyder to get in to see a top neurosurgeon, who assured him that the problem wasn’t with his neck – but did assure him that he couldn’t pinpoint the issue.

That became a recurring theme. A shoulder specialist would send him to a neck specialist, and then the neck specialist would send him to a spine specialist, only to have the spine specialist send him back to a shoulder specialist. It was a never-ending cycle of appointments and tests, all to no avail.

Within two years of first being injured, Snyder guesses he underwent about 10 MRIs. Still, no answers.

Like a 36-handicap hacking away at the range, Snyder was ready to try anything.

“I went to see – you name it,” he says. “All kinds of different crazy gurus of body mechanics. I went to a guy up in Minneapolis, Minn., who Arron Oberholser had seen. Literally, it was shock therapy. Tried to do it and it just didn’t fix it.”

Four months of that. Three months with another doctor. There were even procedures done to potentially alleviate the pain. In late-2009, Snyder underwent surgery for a sports hernia, and then was told immediately afterward that he needed to have surgery on his right hip, as well. Neither solved the problem. He still couldn’t swing the golf club.

All during this time, he heard the whispers from fellow PGA Tour members. When a player with full status is injured, he not only receives a medical extension which allows him to resume playing privileges once healthy, but also a monthly stipend during that absence.

The cases are few and far between, but Snyder wouldn’t have been the first player to extensively milk an injury in order to keep receiving paychecks without actually having to play any golf.

“Most of the players were very supportive,” he says. “But some guys do question whether you’re staying at home, living off disability because you can. I’ve heard everything. For a guy like me, I’m pretty honest. It’s hard not to have Mickey Mouse ears when it comes to that stuff. It definitely hurts your feelings, but there’s part of you that understands it.

“I mean, gosh, they haven’t seen me in six years. I kept telling them, ‘I would love to come back. Believe me, I didn’t try this long to get out here just so I could sit at home.’”

Finally, on March 5, 2010, exactly four years to the day of his last PGA Tour round, he was diagnosed with adhesive capsulitis – more commonly known as frozen shoulder. The affliction baffled doctors for so long because the nerve in his shoulder was fully engulfed in scar tissue due to so much golf.

“I told the doctor, ‘You’re going to have to forgive me, but I’ve heard that people can fix me and nobody’s done it, so I want to see that this is the right diagnosis,’” he recalls. “The doctor said, ‘On behalf of the medical community, I want to apologize to you. This should have been something that was fairly easy to diagnose, but we missed it, because of all the neurological signs and all the referred pain.’”

Snyder underwent surgery to fix the problem, albeit not without further complications. He played in five Nationwide Tour events last season – missing the cut in each one, but posting scores between 70-73 in all 10 rounds – and felt more pain, so he had another procedure. He had wanted to return earlier this year, but again had the injury flare up.

Now, though, it’s gone – at least for the time being. All of the doctor visits, all of those diagnoses and tests and procedures, they were done for the main goal of returning to his job.

On Thursday, Snyder will compete on the PGA Tour for the first time in 2,265 days, part of the Byron Nelson Championship field. He has 25 starts in which to earn $647,466, which would give him the equivalent of 125th on the money from the 2006 season.

Of course, the Tour has changed since then. Sure, there are many familiar faces, but gazing out upon the practice range this week, Snyder says he only recognizes most of the younger players from watching them on TV.

As for his game, Snyder maintains there are no expectations for his return engagement.

“Everything is feeling pretty good,” he says, “but don’t get me wrong – the game has still got a little bit of rust.”

Meanwhile, Sophie and Caroline – along with Snyder’s wife Dana – will be watching from home, still not exactly sure why their father is gone or what his job really entails.

“I’ve been at home every single day of their lives. It’s been great. It’s been the only thing that’s kept me sane,” he explains. “They said, ‘Daddy, why do you have to go?’ I told them, ‘This is what Daddy does for a living. I know you haven’t seen it, but hopefully you’ll get to see what Daddy does.’”

For the past six years, Snyder has been a PGA Tour golfer. This week, he finally gets a chance to play that role.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

 

 

Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."


Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout


Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.