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Club pro overcomes crash and rebuilds swing to compete in PGA Championship

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Braden Shattuck is living a lifelong dream this week — playing in the PGA Championship. 

But a recent crash nearly prevented this goal from ever coming to fruition. 

In 2019, Shattuck was grinding on mini-tours and playing Monday qualifiers, hoping he'd find his way to the game's highest level. 

Then, one night, he was T-boned while driving through an intersection, suffering two herniated discs in his lower back, a concussion and nerve damage in his legs. 

He was uncertain if he'd ever play competitive golf again.  

Full-field tee times from the PGA Championship

"For a while there, I thought golf might be out of the question," he said Tuesday ahead of the PGA Championship. "You kind of rely on uncertainty there for a while, which kind of sucks. But the goal was still to get back here. It was tough to watch all of my colleagues and friends that were still playing and having some success moving up to Korn Ferry [Tour] and even to the PGA Tour."

The accident caused Shattuck, 28, to shelve his sticks for nearly two years. During that time, he worked as an assistant golf professional at several clubs.

But he didn't let the accident dash his professional golf aspirations. He began doing physical therapy three days a week and "every kind of alternative therapy you could think of besides surgery for a good 18 to 24 months."

"It was probably almost the full two years before I was able to play nine holes, and even once I was back, I wasn't able to practice," he said. "I couldn't do a full range session. I could maybe go hit balls for five minutes. I would always have to take a cart. Walking was a little tough. Even now, walking is still a little tough on my body."

And the Pennsylvania native had to rebuild his swing, applying his own teaching methods to himself. 

"I knew what exactly in my golf swing hurt," he said, "so I figured if I could do something with my setup and my golf swing to take some pressure off of those areas, that even if I didn't fully heal that maybe I could still swing a golf club with minimal pain. It was just a process of trial and error until I found something that worked. ... It was almost like I was building somebody else's swing it. It was kind of a neat little experiment, to be honest with you."

Shattuck wins PGA Pro; Headed to Oak Hill

Shattuck won by one shot over Matt Cahill (68) and Michael Block (69) at Twin Warriors Golf Club.

With his reconstructed swing, Shattuck, now the director of instruction at the Rolling Green Golf Club in Springfield, Pennsylvania, won the PGA Professional Championship earlier this month, despite coming into the event just hoping he'd make the cut. The win earned him six PGA Tour starts next season, along with a spot in this week's PGA Championship. 

The pain from the accident, though, still lingers. Last year, he withdrew after the first round of Korn Ferry Tour Q-School because of back pain. He does physical therapy twice a week and has to do certain exercises and stretches every day. 

The past four years, however, have given him a new perspective on his career. 

"I had a little bit more of an intense outlook when I was younger," he said. "Now, I just feel a lot more fortunate to be out here, so I feel like I'm playing on house money."

Maybe that mentality results in Shattuck earning low club pro honors  at Oak Hill — out of the 20 on site — or possibly even winning. However, his expectations are a little more modest. 

"I don't think it's reasonable to think I can win the golf tournament and beat the best players in the world," he said, "but I think I can definitely make the cut."