Playing through the pain

By Randall MellAugust 12, 2011, 5:00 pm

2007 Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Reilley Rankin shows you the bloated blister on her left hand.

It hurts just looking at it.

She shot 3-under-par 69 with that hand Thursday at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, her best score in eight months in an LPGA event, her best in almost three years in a major. She’s tied for seventh.

Rankin pokes the blister with a finger on the driving range and winces.

Reilley Rankin
Reilley Rankin had five birdies and two bogeys Thursday at Mission Hills. (Getty Images)
“If you focus on it, it hurts more,” Rankin says.

Rankin knows all about pain, overcoming it.

A dozen years ago, during a vacation while at the University of Georgia, she broke her back in two places jumping off a cliff into a lake in Alabama. She also broke her sternum. After a couple months in a body brace, two years in rehabilitation, she came back to lead the Bulldogs to the NCAA women’s golf championship.

Rankin, 31, was hurt again last year, but the pain was different, not so visible. You can’t see bruises to the soul. You can’t see how worry and guilt wound the heart.

You can see bad swings, though, and Rankin was making a lot of them, missing the cut in 10 of 13 tournaments, her worst year on tour.

There was too much focus on pain on and off the golf course.

At the end of 2009, Rankin’s mother, Mary, was diagnosed with cancer in her neck.

Reilley’s father, Bill, who works in the restaurant business in South Carolina, didn’t have health insurance.

“Couldn’t afford it,” Reilley says.

Trying to find Mary Rankin help was nightmarish.

“You talk to hospitals, and you realize how much it’s about the money,” Reilley says.

Reilley’s father left his job to nurse Mary. So did Rankin’s sister, Caroline. Reilley led the charge trying to find care and the right treatment. It was maddening work, talking to health-care companies, doctors’ offices. But Reilley never felt like she was doing enough as she played through her mother’s illness. There was guilt feeling that way.

“It’s hard when a loved one’s hurting,” Rankin said. “My mother and father, they gave up so much for me to be able to play golf. We didn’t have much, and they gave up everything for my dream. I knew playing made my mom happy, but I really struggled with that.”

Reilley, with the aid of dear friends, Courtney Trimble, the head coach at the University of Central Florida, and Mary Bryan, the assistant coach there, found Mary Rankin help at Florida Hospital in Orlando. The hospital’s foundation stepped in to cover costs. Reilley’s mother, father and sister moved in with Reilley in Orlando and over several months, the treatment drove Mary’s cancer out.

“The cancer’s gone, but there are other health issues,” Rankin said.

Mary Rankin was well enough last December to watch Reilley play in the LPGA Tour Championship in Orlando. Reilley missed the cut. Her mother hugged her afterward with tears in her eyes.

“Does this mean you have to go to Q-School?” Mary asked Reilley. “It’s not fair, but I believe in you. I know you can do it.”

Believing again. Believing it as much as her mother believes. That’s become Rankin’s quest in rebuilding her game.

Rankin says her swing coach, Gary Gilchrist, is doing as much for her confidence as he is her swing.

“He knows more than my game,” Rankin said. “He knows my personality, what makes me tick.”

Rankin says Gilchrist is making her believe she doesn’t have to be technically perfect to play good golf. That’s what made her 69 Thursday feel so good. She said she put up a score feeling like she wasn’t hitting the ball that well.

“Everybody sees all the talent and ability in Reilley, but she doubts herself,” Gilchrist said.

Gilchrist is turning the focus away from Rankin’s blisters and pain and onto what’s right in her game.

“Gary’s been drilling into me that what I have is good enough,” Rankin said. “He’s building back my confidence.”

Mostly, Rankin says Gilchrist’s helping her play like she did as a junior and in college.

“Play like a kid,” Rankin said. “That’s what I’m trying to get back to doing.”

Rankin’s trying not to focus on the pain anymore, even in her bad shots.

“When you’re a kid and you hit a bad shot, you’re thinking, 'Great, now I get to go play a fun shot from there,’” Rankin said. “It’s about how you handle things, how you respond.”

Rankin knows her 69 was just one round at the Kraft, but it was a big step for her confidence. She reminded herself you don’t have to focus on life’s blisters.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm