On Grand Strand Golf: Blanks weighing options with shoulder injury

ablondin@thesunnews.comOctober 15, 2012 

Former Grand Strand resident Kris Blanks has shut it down for the 2012 season, and he’s in the process of determining the next treatment for a shoulder injury in an effort to retain his PGA Tour membership in 2013.

Blanks hasn’t played on the PGA Tour since July 13, when he missed the cut at the John Deere Classic with a 3-under 71-68–139.

He has vacillated between getting surgery or receiving therapy for the past couple months and is still unsure of his approach in the near future, though he expects to know more following a meeting Wednesday with famed sports orthopaedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews at his office in Pensacola, Fla.

Meanwhile, he has registered for the second stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament as a backup plan.

“It’s just been a frustrating ongoing struggle because I don’t know exactly what’s wrong,” Blanks said. “I’ve had doctors tell me one thing and others tell me another thing and I don’t know who to believe. Right now the idea is to just get healthy.”

Blanks lived on the Grand Strand and bartended, waited tables and worked the bag drop at Wild Wing Plantation from 1996-2002, and has lived in Jupiter, Fla., for the past 2½ years with his wife, Tami, and two sons ages 6 and 8.

Blanks has been told by doctors in Florida he has shoulder tendinitis and a possible bone spur. He said the pain shoots over the top of shoulder and into bicep, from the middle of backswing through impact. Though the pain is more annoying than debilitating, he said the injury has also caused him to lose strength in the shoulder.

“I didn’t really think it was anything serious, and if I just rested it for a couple weeks it would be okay, but that hasn’t been the case,” Blanks said. “It’s been a frustrating process. I hate not playing but I hate not playing like I’m capable of also. I can play, but I can’t practice much. If I hit 100 balls it flares up.”

Blanks had surgery scheduled for Aug. 24 on the advice of one doctor, but canceled it to continue exploring his options. “I’m trying to avoid surgery as much as I can,” he said. “I don’t want to just get cut on to get cut on.”

Blanks, who turns 40 on Nov. 3, is in his fourth year on the PGA Tour and recorded career highs in 2011 by placing 65th on the money list with $1.35 million earned, making 17 cuts and recording seven top-10 finishes. He has finished second in the 2010 Puerto Rico Open and 2011 RBC Canadian Open, where he lost a playoff to Sean O’Hair, and gained membership on the tour after finishing 13th on the Web.com Tour money list in 2008, when he won a tournament.

This season, Blanks made 11 cuts in 23 starts with just one finish in the top 25 through a busy schedule. He played in nine consecutive events beginning with the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head Island on April 12 and ending with the FedEx St. Jude Classic on June 7, and that began a stretch of 13 events in 14 weeks to end his season. He withdrew from the St. Jude following an opening-round 78 and otherwise missed five of his final six cuts.

Blanks has applied for a medical exemption in 2013, and will know if he receives one following the Nov. 8-11 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic outside Orlando.

If a medical exemption is granted, Blanks will have a few tournaments in 2013 to earn enough money to get inside the 125th spot on the 2012 money list.

Blanks is 156th on the money list with $390,000 in 23 events. The 125th spot is $612,000 with two events remaining. He expects the tour average to be 26 or 27 starts this year, so he believes he’ll have three or four starts to earn approximately $240,000.

He has been assigned the Nov. 13-16 Q-School second stage site of Plantation Preserve Golf Course in Plantation, Fla.

He plans to begin practice sessions in the next few days if Dr. Andrews endorses it.

“It depends on whether I can do more damage to it by playing or not,” Blanks said. “If I can practice a little before that and be ready to go I’ll do it. The plan is to give it a shot and play. If I have to medicate myself to the point I can get around then that’s what we’ll do.”

Surgery after his Q-School attempt and a return to action by March or so is also a possibility.

He recently played in a Minor League Golf Tour event in Florida and finished third at 7-under par with 12 birdies, an eagle, a bogey and three double bogeys.

Brown claims NGA POY

Brandon Brown of Shelbyville, Ky., finished in the top four in 10 of 14 events in 2012 to be named the Player of the Year on the Grand Strand-based National Golf Association (formerly NGA Hooters) Tour.

The Eastern Kentucky alumnus earned his sixth NGA Tour victory and also made the cut in every event, finishing outside the top 15 just once to earn a tour-high $115,085. He also picked up his first PGA Tour paycheck by finishing 62nd in the Reno-Tahoe Open while playing on an NGA Tour event exemption.

Ken Looper of Mandeville, La., and Jonathan Randolph of Brandon, Miss., share the NGA’s 2012 Rookie of the Year award.

Looper, who played at LSU, earned a victory on the Bridgestone Winter Series, one on the national Pro Series and four top-10s in his rookie season. Randolph, a 2010 All-Nicklaus team member and 2010 All-American from Ole Miss, won his last two starts on the Pro Series after a sluggish start to the season.

Two of the last three NGA POY winners – Ted Potter Jr. and Michael Thompson – will be playing on the PGA Tour in 2013. Other former NGA POYs include Zach Johnson, Lee Janzen, Chad Campbell and Casey Wittenberg.

Former NGA Rookies of the Year include PGA Tour members Russell Knox, Chad Collins and Vaughn Taylor and European Tour member Gareth Maybin. Keegan Bradley, who won the 2011 PGA Championship, is a past runner-up in the NGA Tour Rookie of the Year race.

Chas Narramore of Kingston, Tenn., a former Middle Tennessee State standout, is the tour’s Most Improved Player after making 13 of 16 cuts, winning an event and claiming four top-10s. Former South Carolina golfer Mark Silvers was given the tour’s Golf Achievement award for exemplifying a professional golfer both on and off the course.

Rounds for auction

Bidding began Oct. 1 for access to hundreds of courses through online auctions of golf rounds thanks to Rounds 4 Research and the Toro Co.

Accessible through the online auction site biddingforgood.com, the first auction period ended Monday and featured nearly 70 courses in 11 states.

Subsequent auctions will be conducted Oct. 22-Nov. 5, Nov. 12-26 and Dec. 3-17. Presently, 250 rounds for foursomes are up for auction including those at Pine Needles Lodge in Mid Pines, N.C., TPC Sugarloaf outside Atlanta; and East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, site of the Tour Championship. Additional rounds are being secured.

Rounds 4 Research is a fundraising program supporting agronomic research for courses. It is in response to previous funding sources, both public and private, being eliminated.

The program is being administered by the Environmental Institute for Golf, the philanthropic organization of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. It has been conducted the previous four years on a regional basis.

HT hole among best

The famed 18th hole on Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head Island is one of Golf Magazine’s “Best 18 Holes” in the world, showcased at Golf.com, the magazine’s online portal.

With the eminent red- and white-striped lighthouse standing sentinel behind the green and Calibogue Sound flanking the entire left side, the 472-yard par-4 caps a layout Hall of Fame golf writer Dan Jenkins once said is “nothing short of a work of art.” Golfweek’s Brad Klein says, “It’s one of the most innovative and revolutionary designs in the history of golf architecture.”

The scenic hole on the iconic Pete Dye design that annually hosts the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage joins the world’s most acclaimed holes on the list including: the dramatic cliff-to-cliff par-3 16th of Cypress Point, No. 17 on the Old Course at St. Andrews with its notorious “Road Hole Bunker,” the splendid 18th of Pebble Beach Golf Links along Carmel Bay, and classic No. 9 of Royal County Down in Northern Ireland.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284. To read Alan’s blog, Green Reading, or his Twitter account visit myrtlebeachonline.com

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