Klauk trying to end seizures, return to pro golf

By Jason SobelMay 11, 2012, 8:33 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – One hundred forty-four of the world’s best golfers are competing at this week’s Players Championship, all vying for the $1.71 million prize that awaits the winner. They will acknowledge each birdie with ecstasy, each par with relief, each bogey with anguish.

They will live and die with every stroke of the club, this assembled group of world-class professionals.

Jeff Klauk isn’t one of them. It’s not because his ball-striking has been inconsistent or his putting stroke a bit balky. It’s not because he isn’t good enough.

No, Klauk has the talent to play in this tournament.

It’s his brain that’s holding him back.

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Klauk grew up here at TPC-Sawgrass, headquarters for the PGA Tour. For 23 years, his father, Fred, was the golf course superintendent, the man largely responsible for ensuring the venue looked and played to the standards of such an elite championship.

The family lived just off the 12th hole of the Valley Course, the other 18-holer on this property. It was only a 15-minute walk for Jeff and his brothers to reach the first tee at the Stadium Course, a walk they routinely made during their youth.

During the summer months, Jeff and one brother, John, worked for their father, mowing fairways and greens all morning, then grabbing a quick lunch before either practicing or playing in the afternoon.

“Oh, it was great,” Fred says of those days. “It taught them so much. They were both aspiring professional golfers and it made them appreciate all the work that goes into hosting a tournament.”

It wasn’t just a golf course to the Klauks. It was a home. One on which Jeff estimates he’s played “close to 1,000 times” as a junior player, collegian and member of the PGA Tour.

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Yes, dreams do come true, and the kid who was raised in the epicenter of the most important golf circuit in the world was able to realize his.

After a lengthy career on the developmental Nationwide Tour, during which he earned more than $1 million, Jeff Klauk finally reached the PGA Tour for the first time in 2009. But that wasn’t good enough. Much like an Augusta, Ga., native pines to qualify for the Masters, he desperately wanted to make the field at The Players, competing in front of friends and family on his home course.

That’s no easy task for a rookie, but Klauk got off to a flying start that season. He finished T-12 at the Sony Open, T-11 at the Buick Invitational and solo fourth at the Honda Classic. By the time the calendar turned to May, he had made the cut in 11 of 13 starts – and gained entry into The Players.

“It was quite a thrill to be able to play in The Players Championship,” he recalls. “It was always a dream of mine.”

He didn’t just play. Klauk posted rounds of 71-72-70-71 to finish in a share of 14th place, ahead of such major champions as Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington.

It was an impressive display of golf considering all the pressures of competing in front of the hometown galleries. It was even more impressive considering what he was battling personally.

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On June 16, 2006, following a second-round 69 at the Nationwide Tour’s Knoxville Open, Klauk was asleep at a friend's house when he suffered a grand mal seizure. He withdrew from the event, but continued playing scheduled tournaments until he suffered a second occurrence two months later in Scranton, Pa.

“It was surprising because we’d had no problem up to then,” he says. “That was our wakeup call.”

After consulting with doctors and being diagnosed with epilepsy, Klauk was put on a drug called Trileptal, which completely eliminated the grand mal seizures. How could he tell it was working? After missing the cut at Pebble Beach in 2010, he flew home and forgot to take the medication. Without it, he suffered yet another episode.

Other than that occasion, he has remained free of grand mal seizures. In December of 2010, though, while driving to church with his wife Shanna and their two young children, Klauk became lightheaded and unresponsive.

“All of a sudden, I kind of spaced out,” he recalls. “I did a little chuckle laugh and Shanna asked me a question, but I was just spaced out.”

The Klauks met with a neurologist who performed testing on an Epilepsy Monitoring Unit. It revealed that Jeff was suffering from complex partial seizures without ever being aware of them.

“I don’t have an aura that I’m having them,” he explains. “That would change things. If you know you’re having them, you’d stop what you’re doing and make it a safe situation.”

Instead, he’s had to make concessions. He doesn’t drive anymore and, coupled with rotator-cuff surgery and ankle surgery, he hasn’t competed in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event since last year’s Wichita Open.

Medication has helped reduce the seizures, but hasn’t eliminated them completely.

“They have controlled the seizures to an extent, but they’re not fully controlled,” Klauk says. “I’ll have one or two now and then, but it’s not to the extent that it makes us feel comfortable with me driving. They normally happen when I’m tired and I’ve had a long day, and a lot of the times they happen late at night, right after dinner or before I go to bed.”

The situation led to an agonizing conundrum: Live a life of compromises or seek the necessary steps to have them eliminated?

It wasn’t an easy decision.

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With his complex partial seizures limited by the medication, Jeff Klauk is going to live. He is going to be able to enjoy his family life and remain relatively pain-free, the previous rotator-cuff and ankle injuries notwithstanding.

He’ll be restricted, though. Won’t be able to drive a car. And, more importantly, could see the condition take a toll on his golf game.

For these reasons, he’s elected to employ medical technology to help eliminate the continual seizures. In November, he underwent another EMU at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta to try to pinpoint where they were emanating. The process wasn’t successful, so Klauk took the next step.

Just three weeks ago, he checked into Emory for what is called intracranial monitoring. During a nine-hour procedure, Klauk had strips implanted inside both sides of his head, hooked up to 108 electrodes.

“The goal for that surgery is to locate the spot,” he explains. “If we happen to get really lucky and hit a home run, we can find the spot where the seizures are coming from. We didn’t hit a home run, but the whole process was to figure out what side of the head the seizures were coming from. We finally figured it out after 18 days.”

After 18 days of not being able to leave his room, let alone the hospital itself, Klauk was informed by neurologists that the seizures were coming from the left frontal part of his brain.

That was the easy part. Now comes the hard part.

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This past Wednesday, Klauk returned to his St. Augustine home – just 30 minutes from his childhood home next to TPC Sawgrass – both hopeful and anxious.

There aren’t many people who would be galvanized by a second elective brain surgery, but that’s exactly what he is hoping for. At some point in the next month, Klauk will find out whether he is a candidate to have another nine-hour procedure called a craniotomy, during which he would have a grid placed on the left side of his brain, potentially eradicating any further seizures.

Klauk calls it an invasive operation and a “very big process,” but understands its importance for his long-term well-being.

“That surgery gives me hope,” he says, “that I could possibly be seizure-free after all this.”

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All of which should lead to one simple yet complicated question: Why?

Why risk having multiple brain surgeries when the condition isn’t life-threatening? Why spend weeks and months in and out of hospitals? Why put yourself through all of this if it isn’t necessary?

Klauk understands the questions, but counters with easy answers.

“If I don’t try to become seizure-free, I’d have to live the rest of my life asking, ‘Why did I not give this a try?’” he contends. 'I’d always say, ‘Maybe if I had done it, I would be seizure free.’”

“Your main job as a wife is to support your husband,” Shanna says. “It’s the choice that he wanted to make. I’m not going to hold him back from something that’s going to change his life.”

Don’t underestimate the role that golf has played in his decision, either. Klauk desperately wants to return to the PGA Tour – he has eight tournaments remaining on a medical extension – and more than anything wants to return right back here, competing again at The Players Championship on the course he knows and loves so much.

“I think the golf is probably driving the bus,” says his father, Fred. “I think he’s taking a gamble, he’s risking a lot of things, because that’s where he wants to be. He wouldn’t be doing all of this if it wasn’t for golf.”

“I’d like to get it over with as soon as I can,” adds Jeff, “so I can get my normal life back on track and I can get out and play.”

When he does return to the PGA Tour, he will come bearing a greater perspective on things outside of the game.

Klauk is quick to point out that his ordeal is “nothing” compared to that of Jarrod Lyle, a fellow pro who is currently undergoing leukemia treatments in his native Australia. He also maintains that he wants to get involved with the Epilepsy Foundation, helping others dealing with similar afflictions.

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On Friday afternoon, two days after returning home from his 18-day stay at Emory, Klauk and his family were back at The Players Championship. Jeff and Shanna walked the familiar venue with Jackson, 7, and Bridget, 3, in hopes of giving the kids a chance to see Tiger Woods.

Wearing a white Titleist cap that barely hid large scars bordered by stitches on either side of his head, Klauk saw some old buddies. Tournament leader Zach Johnson, in particular, said that he’s continually keeping him in his prayers each day. It’s a common sentiment amongst his brethren.

“I’ve gotten so many letters and notes from guys on Tour that it wouldn’t even be fair to give names out, because I’d forget people,” he says. “They’re thinking about me; that means a lot to me. When I was in the hospital, I got a lot of those notes. That was a great surprise, just helped me stay strong when I was in there.”

The prayers and letters will continue while he enters the next phase of his battle, his recovery and his life. As he walked around the course, Klauk was home again. It’s a long road that he’s traveled to get back here. The journey, though, is far from over.

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith admitted sleeping on the lead of the biggest tournament available to him might be a problem.

''I can't say, 'Oh, it won't bother me.' But to me, it's fun,'' Smith said after shooting a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.

''To see my name on the board out there, it's not like I'm blind to the leaderboard, that was cool,'' said Smith, who is playing in his fourth Senior PGA and third at Harbor Shores - where he has made the 36-hole cut the previous two times.

''All my members are taking pictures and I know at home my members are pulling up that screen and like I tell them, going to the middle and looking down. So it probably took them a while to find my name today."

Petrovic, who was among the leaders in the Regions Tradition last week before a poor final round, said it was a little bit of a surprise when he heard Smith was at 7 under through 17 holes.

''There was a little bit of buzz, we were talking about it,'' he said. ''I heard somebody say 7 under and I said 'who is it? And we looked up, but we didn't know who the player was. In a tournament like this, you know how it is, there's always one guy, one smart-alec that shoots 7, 8 under in the first round.''

Smith, who birdied five consecutive holes starting at the seventh, played college golf at UCLA and knocked around the mini tours and South Africa for several years without ever gaining his tour card. He was college teammates with some of the players in the field, including Corey Pavin, Duffy Waldorf and Steve Pate, but said he no longer seeks the tour life.


Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


''It's just not me anymore,'' he said. ''So that's why maybe I do have an advantage this week because it's just fun to me. It's like my wife said - just enjoy the ride.''

Petrovic had seven birdies in his round while McCarron and Lonard played bogey-free rounds. Short holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par 4 12th and made eagle on the par 5 ninth hole, his last hole of the day.

McCarron is the only one of the six leaders with a major on his resume. He won the Senior Players Championship last year, and played The Players Championship recently.

''It was a lot of fun being on that stage, of course being at The Players with the best players in the world playing one of the best golf courses in the world,'' he said. ''I think the preparation there and just being on that stage helped me going into last week in Alabama, and certainly this week.''

The top two money winners on the PGA Tour Champions are not in Benton Harbor. Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.

Paul Goydos, a five-time senior winner including the 2016 Charles Schwab Cup Championship, and Chris Williams of South Africa shot 67. Joe Durant, David Toms, Kenny Perry, Jerry Pate and Fred Funk were among 15 players at 68.

Colin Montgomerie, who won the first of consecutive Senior PGA titles here in 2014, shot 69, and Miguel Angel Jimenez, coming off a win last week in the first major of the year at the Regions Tradition, opened with a 70.