When Bud Cauley Tees Off on the WM Phoenix Open, He’ll Already Have Received

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By Calvin S. Nelson

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A collapsed lung, six damaged ribs, a fractured leg: on Friday evening on the 2018 Memorial, Bud Cauley’s PGA Tour profession got here to an abrupt halt.

Twenty-nine years outdated on the time, Cauley was fortunate to outlive as a passenger in a late-night single-car accident that occurred simply minutes from Muirfield Village Golf Membership. However his nightmare was solely simply starting.

This week on the WM Phoenix Open, Cauley, 33, will return to the PGA Tour for the primary time in three years, taking part in on a significant medical extension. His final begin on Tour was the 2020 Safeway Open. Earlier than then, the College of Alabama product seemed to be cruising to a full restoration from the accidents he sustained after the accident, by which his pal’s BMW M6 flipped into the air and landed in a ditch.

Bud Cauley returns to the PGA Tour this week on the WM Phoenix Open.

Mike Mulholland/Getty Photos

A former No. 1 junior on the planet and one in every of just some gamers to earn PGA Tour membership with out going to Q-Faculty, Cauley nonetheless had severe potential to rise within the skilled ranks. In 2019, he even jumped into rivalry on the Memorial—one 12 months after the life-threatening crash that transpired simply down the highway—in the end ending within the prime 10. He plugged away for one more 12 months after that, till he began experiencing a piercing ache on his proper facet, the identical facet that was crushed two years prior.

“It felt like somebody was stabbing me within the chest,” Cauley informed Sports activities Illustrated.

Surgical procedure was seemingly the one choice. In response to Cauley, medical doctors thought the ache may need been stemming from one of many plates that was initially put in in his chest after the crash. In April 2021, his surgeon went in to attempt to take away it, however Cauley’s bone had grown on prime of the plate, making it unattainable to extract. A few of Cauley’s scar tissue was eliminated as a substitute, hoping that will do the trick.

Twelve days later, Cauley’s spouse observed that the incision from the surgical procedure had ripped open.

“I used to be simply standing in the home, and Kristi goes, ‘Your shirt is form of moist.’ Take my shirt off, there’s only a gap within the facet of my chest,” Cauley mentioned.

The issues didn’t cease there. After a follow-up surgical procedure, medical doctors put in what is called a “wound VAC” as a result of his wound was too vast to restore on the spot. Cauley described the mechanism as a suction gadget hooked up to his physique, with a tube always draining the blood from his facet. The subsequent stage included changing the dressing on his damage twice a day. A nurse would go to Cauley’s residence to pack the facet of his chest with gauze, as soon as within the morning and as soon as within the night, for weeks on finish. When the pores and skin lastly grew again collectively, Cauley went again in for a 3rd surgical procedure. The stitches acquired contaminated.

“All the pieces that would go mistaken appeared to go mistaken,” Cauley mentioned.

That is when Cauley began to noticeably fear. Skilled golf wasn’t precisely a precedence anymore; the Jacksonville native was involved about his high quality of life. Even when Cauley may by no means take a full swing once more, easy issues like getting off the bed and sleeping by way of the evening induced him immeasurable ache.

The motions of day by day life ultimately grew to become manageable, however the golf nonetheless wasn’t there. Cauley’s optimism a couple of potential return was fading, and now he had one thing else to concentrate on: His household. In November 2022, his son Cooper was born.

“Kristi and I acquired married, we had Cooper and I assumed, nicely, if I can simply play golf and never professionally … I can simply go play with him, and that will be nice,” Cauley says.

Cauley floated conversations about alternate profession paths. He considered remaining within the golf business however not as knowledgeable golfer. It was troublesome to fathom. So he saved attempting. Gentle tissue work, injections, alternate remedies—you identify it, Cauley gave it a shot. The previous three years of Cauley’s life have been spent in ready rooms and physician’s places of work.

“The folks that carried out the surgical procedures had been saying there was nothing they may do,” Cauley says. “I used to be looking for a distinct path to feeling higher. The considered having one other surgical procedure was fairly scary for me.”

Lastly, Cauley began seeing a health care provider on the Jacksonville Mayo Clinic. A specialised injection and minimally invasive process referred to as hydrodissection helped break up his scar tissue. It took greater than two years to seek out, however Cauley had stumbled upon a pathway ahead.

In September 2023, he began hitting balls once more and gearing up for a return. Cash video games at residence in Florida with Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay and fellow Crimson Tide alum Justin Thomas helped Cauley check his recreation in opposition to the PGA Tour’s greatest. On Jan. 5, 2024, Cauley shared his progress with the world. He took to Instagram to put up screenshots of his entry into two Korn Ferry Tour occasions, together with a long-awaited swing video.

“Effectively to make a really, very lengthy story brief … I’m coming again,” he wrote.

As Thomas aptly famous on Tuesday at his WM Phoenix Open press convention, Cauley’s T21 and T35 finishes in these Korn Ferry Tour occasions had been nothing wanting outstanding.

“If I’ve a month off aggressive golf, the quantity of rust I really feel my first spherical, not to mention, what, 4 years, a number of years? To return again and play that nicely and constantly I believe speaks volumes to the place he is at, however I am additionally certain he has a completely totally different perspective on the market whereas he is taking part in, with the accident and accidents and being a dad now,” Thomas mentioned.

Regardless of the result of his return, Cauley has lots to be glad about this week in Phoenix along with his well being. He has the distinctive alternative to earn again his Tour card all through his subsequent 27 begins (he’ll have to earn 391 FedEx Cup factors to keep up his card based on the PGA Tour’s medical extension coverage). Cauley’s friends are ecstatic about his return. The likes of Gary Woodland, Rickie Fowler and U.S. Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson went out of their approach to greet him with a hug in the course of this interview. However when Cauley thinks about it, the generally debilitating journey that he has endured over the previous three years is the true supply of his gratitude.

“I didn’t cease attempting,” he mentioned. “I mentioned it to lots of people: I can’t do that anymore. I can’t be caught with one other needle. I can’t go to a different physician’s workplace. I can’t sit by way of one other MRI. My spouse needed to actually encourage me to maintain going. It’s virtually scary to assume that I may have simply stopped, after which I wouldn’t be right here this week.”

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