A cerebral experience at the Deutsche Bank Championship
August 31, 2012
By Doug Milne, PGA TOUR Staff
BOSTON- Sometimes, circumstances leave you feeling as though you’re alone in the world. There’s no one to understand, no one to feel your pain and uncertainty. A fear of the unknown falls seemingly on deaf ears. There’s no synchronization, no parallels. There seems no end to that which began beyond your control. There seems to be no-one to walk the line with.
“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.” – Charles Bukowski
It started with the hope for a ticket, just a $55 grounds pass to get him onto property for a day. That way, he thought, he may be able to get up close to one he knew who had been there, one who had walked through that fire before him.
As a teenager, Scott Underhill lived with the headaches so severe there were days he could barely get out of bed. He either couldn’t or just didn’t want to. Over time, they either lessened in severity or became so regular that he began treating them as mere annoyances. One day, he figured, they’ll just go away.
They didn’t. And when a snow-boarding accident last summer left the 21-year-old with a concussion, the headaches returned. They were worse than ever.
In December, surgeons performed a five-hour brain surgery on Underhill to relieve pressure on his cerebellum. The procedure, a laminectomy, hollows out the top two vertebrae. In doing so, a small portion of his skull was removed.
A year earlier, two-time PGA TOUR champion J.B. Holmes underwent the exact same surgery. Underhill knew that and followed his progress every step of the way. He was no longer alone. Scott Underhill had found a parallel.
Both men recovered brilliantly.
In 2011, Holmes was the only PGA TOUR player who had earned his way into the elite, 100-man Deutsche Bank Championship field not to play. His medical condition prevented him. This week, however, Holmes is back at
TPC Boston, ranked 55th in FedExCup standings.
Underhill got his ticket on Thursday, and more. Following a few phone calls, Holmes welcomed Underhill out onto the players range to meet him, compare battle stories and celebrate happy endings to less-than-desirable beginnings.
"It was really nice to have a conversation with someone close in age who has been through the same thing I've been through,” said Holmes. “Everything happens for a reason, and Scott and I have this is in common. It's a bond of sorts. It's always interesting to talk with people, compare notes on something unique like this. Neither of us wanted it, but we both got it and are recovering from it. It's nice to be here to talk about it with him."
“When he came out of the surgery, there was no direction, no time frame on when he could get back to playing golf,” said Scott’s mother Susan. “But then he started following J.B. That helped him with surgical depression."
“Everything changed in his personality when we told him he was going to get to come out here and spend a little time with J.B.,” Susan continued. “He was walking on water. This day of being a part of J.B. Holmes and the PGA TOUR has absolutely given him the motivation to get back into the swing of things.”
"It was so awesome of J.B. to take some time out of his day to talk with me,” Scott said. “He didn’t have to do this and has a million other things to do. It was such a neat feeling to be able to talk to him. He really related to me, and it made me feel really good. It was amazing to be able to meet someone that I follow, look up to and respect, like I do with J.B."
Following a 20-minute one-on-one colorful conversation, one in which there was never a lull, Holmes treated Underhill to a personal tour of the players’ locker room and lesson on the putting green. That’s something Underhill may need. This fall, as a junior, Underhill will join the golf team at Southern New Hampshire University.
Collegiate golf, however, is just where this dream begins for Scott Underhill. He wants to play on golf’s grandest stage; the PGA TOUR. “I think I can do it,” he bragged. “Actually, I know I can. And I would love to do it just like J.B. Holmes is doing it.”
So far, he is.
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