Balancing a Pro Career On a Motorcycle


And to think it all began with a motorcycle accident. Here we have a 53-year-old gent, who messes around with motorcycles, and he nearly loses a career on the lucrative Champions Tour because of it.
You can imagine the scene he is whipping down the highway, scarf flying from his neck, outfitted in his leathers, when suddenly his bike is sideswiped by a drunk motorist and he is sent flying.
Well, Sammy Rachels story isnt quite so dramatic. His motorcycle, in fact, was parked in his driveway back home in DeFuniak Springs, Fla. It was last June, and he had just finished taking a spin. He engaged the kickstand, started to walk away, then came back for something he had forgotten.
Suddenly, however, his glove got caught in the handlebars and he went topsy-turvy over the thing, landing unceremoniously in an awkward heap.
It was basically a Keystone Kops fall ' a clumsy, simple fall, said Rachels.
It actually started to fall over and I tried to grab it ' tried to let it go and it snagged me, just tripped me over. It was more embarrassing than anything else. Its amazing that it ended up doing what it did. Ive fallen a lot worse than that over the years and havent gotten anywhere near that kind of damage.
Rachels, who talks like the good ole' boy that he is, severely sprained his shoulder. Playing a tournament was impossible for the remainder of 2003.
I might as well have tried to tackle Bo Jackson, he said. Because I just fell on it ' in an awkward manner. I lost my balance, and when I fell I hit the edge of the tank with my rib cage.
Now, youve got to realize the predicament in which Sammy finds himself. He was a 10-year journeyman on the regular tour, a tortured soul who labored throughout with a bad back. He underwent four surgeries, and when he was 35 he figured he had had enough. He went home to a club pros job in his hometown.
By the time he was 50, though, he had made an uneasy peace with his spine. He decided to follow his lifes dream and give it one big shot. He entered the Champions Tour qualifying school - and was one of eight who made it!
Then he stunned everyone ' not the least himself - when he won twice the first year (2001), then again in 2002. He had played seven events in 2003 when Clumsy Man took over. His ungainly sprawl meant that last year was a wipeout. And that means that his two-year exemption from his last victory runs out at the end of this year. Rachels didnt earn nearly enough during his PGA Tour career to earn permanent status on the Champions Tour.
I CANT quit - thats my problem right there, he said. Im a member of the What-Have-You-Done-For-Me-Lately club. If youre not on the all-time money list I just have to keep playing and hope that I can figure out how to do it.
And thats become particularly difficult since he learned at the start of this year that he had more than injured just his shoulder.
I went so long without playing, Rachels said. I rehabbed the hell out of my shoulder, and when I started back up my shoulder was fine, but this is what hurt.
This is the rib area. Hes gone to a dozen doctors trying to figure out what the lingering pain was, had bone scans, X-rays, blood work and the prevailing theory was that he also suffered cartilage damage in the Great Bike Caper.
So the next question is, how do you rehab your ribs?
You dont! Rachels said bluntly. Theres nothing you can do. I tried to strap them up and that hurt me worse! So they put me on a steroid pack to see if thatll do it. Maybe thatll take care of some of the inflammation in the cartilage area.
But this is getting serious. Time is rapidly running out for Sammy. Hes a professional golfer, hes proven he can be a darned good one, but if he isnt well enough to get it done this year, its all over. It will be back to Q-School, back to Square One. It may be back to the settled life of a club pro.
It just changes the way you move so much, Rachels explained his difficulty. So this year has really been a disappointment so far.

Disappointment is hardly the word for it. Sammy has started nine tournaments, and his best finish is a tie for 20th. The last four starts he has finished T48, 68th, T44 and T42. But ' there is hope. He has noticed the pain is beginning to give up its grasp on Rachels torso.
My backs a little sore, but thats an old enemy. So that ones fine, he said. Its these things up here (the ribs) that are giving me such a fit this year.
Rachels needs to finish in the top 30 to come back next year. He is 59th. But he still has more than half the season to climb the ladder, so maybe he can do it. After all, before the injury, he finished 18th and 23rd in the rankings.
Oh ' and the motorcycle? Wife Pia stepped in and 'made arrangements' until Rachels has ended his golfing career.
My wife blames it on the motorcycle, but it could have been a wheelbarrow. I mean, I just fell!
Im not allowed to ride it anymore, he said with a wry grin. My youngest sons got it now ' for safekeeping!
Email your thoughts to George White