On Grand Strand Golf: Surgery will sideline McPherson until March

ablondin@thesunnews.comNovember 26, 2012 

Conway native and LPGA Tour member Kristy McPherson doesn’t intend to play another competitive round of golf until March.

Disappointed by the effects of the medical procedures she has undergone in an attempt to avoid going under the knife, McPherson opted to have surgery on her left elbow last Tuesday and likely won’t be ready for competition for a few months.

McPherson had medial and lateral tears affecting ligaments on both sides of her elbow, as well as restrictive and painful scar tissue, and was trying to avoid surgery on the advice of renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews.

He warned her that a Tommy John-like surgery requiring cuts on both sides of her elbow could be career-ending because of McPherson’s juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

So McPherson tried the new Tenex FAST Technique, which is a less invasive alternative to Tommy John surgery with a shorter rehabilitation period. Some minor league baseball pitchers have had it done in the past year.

“I’m kind of a guinea pig so I hope it works out,” McPherson said. “They said it went well, so hopefully that will get the pain gone and he said I’d be swinging in eight to 12 weeks. So hopefully I’ll be back to playing tournaments in three to four months and be healthy with a lot better golf swing.”

FAST is an acronym for Fasciotomy and Surgical Tenotomy, and the surgery was performed by Andrews’ associate Dr. Joshua Hackel with Andrews overseeing the surgery at his Pensacola, Fla., office. McPherson’s brother, Kevin, the men’s golf coach at Augusta State, flew to Pensacola to pick her up and drove to their parents’ Murrells Inlet home in time for Thanksgiving.

The Tenex surgery involved a screw driver-like instrument that went in on both sides of the elbow and repaired the damage. McPherson watched the procedure through ultrasound.

She can’t lift 5 pounds or more with her left arm for six weeks, though she’s heading to her home in Tampa, Fla., next week to start rehab. “I’ll bust my butt in rehab and get back to having a good left elbow,” McPherson said.

McPherson, 31, had surgery on the elbow in December 2010 to remove a couple bone chips, and the surgeon also administered tennis elbow relief and golfer elbow relief during the procedure. She has had pain and difficulty straightening her arm at the elbow ever since.

She underwent a Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injection procedure last winter, and Andrews tried another one two months ago. Another two PRP injections were planned if the last one had any impact, but McPherson played in three tournaments and saw no progress. “They say you can tell if it’s starting to take, and this time didn’t feel it was getting any better at all,” she said.

McPherson played inconsistently in three LPGA events between Oct. 25 and Nov. 18 – her first events since Sept. 21.

She put up some big numbers, battling strong wins to shoot a 12-over 76-70-72-82—300 to tie for 65th in the 78-player Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, shooting a 1-over 71-74-74-70—289 to tie for 26th in the 36-player Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico, and shooting an 18-over 71-81-77-77—306 to tie for 71st in the 73-player CME Group Titleholders.

McPherson finished 82nd on the 2012 LPGA money list with nearly $90,000 earned in 23 tournaments, and her exempt status will likely qualify her for every full-field event in 2013.

McPherson’s best season on the LPGA Tour was 2009 – prior to her elbow issues – when she finished 16th on the money list with more than $800,000 earned and played on the victorious U.S. Solheim Cup Team.

Though the 2013 LPGA schedule hasn’t been officially released, players have seen a draft and McPherson intends to skip opening events in Australia, Thailand and Singapore and hopes to play the first three events in the states, likely beginning with an event in Phoenix in early to mid-March.

“That will be right at four months from surgery,” McPherson said. “We’ll play it by ear and see how the rehab goes.”

Cloyd continues battle

Custom club maker Al Cloyd said Monday he has made some progress in his battle against cancer, and he has been lifting people’s hopes with sporadic visits to Possum Trot Golf Club, where his club-building and club-repairing trailer is located.

Cloyd, who turned 40 on Aug. 19, was diagnosed in February with Stage 3B colon cancer. “Four is about as bad as you can get, and it was bordering right between a three and a four,” Cloyd said. “We got really lucky to catch it when we did. They had misdiagnosed me for probably over a couple years.”

Cloyd said he was told repeatedly by a doctor over a couple years that he had irritable bowel syndrome, but none of the prescribed treatments were working. After writhing in pain on his bedroom floor on consecutive nights in February, he asked to see a different doctor. “I told him, ‘You have two options: you can shoot me now and get it over with or fix me,’ ” Cloyd said.

A colonoscopy revealed a cancerous tumor in his colon, and he managed to get a referral to experts at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

In addition to receiving radiation and chemotherapy treatments there, Cloyd has undergone three surgeries and has a fourth upcoming that he hopes will be the final one.

Cloyd said initial radiation treatments caused his colon wall to collapse so he had surgery to install an ostomy bag. An eight-hour surgery in August rebuilt the colon, and he’s hoping to have ostomy reversal surgery in about a month to have the bag removed. “I cannot wait to get rid of that,” Cloyd said.

Sixteen lymph nodes were removed during the most recent surgery, and because cancer was found in one of them Cloyd is about to begin another round of chemotherapy. He has PET (positron emission tomography) and CT (computed tomography) scans scheduled Dec. 5 and 7 to check the effectiveness of the chemo.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to get everything back to normal probably by the first of the year,” Cloyd said. “To be 100 percent cancer free, that’s the goal.”

Cloyd stopped by Possum Trot on Monday. “I haven’t really had the energy to work, that’s the thing with the chemo,” Cloyd said. “I’ll come in every blue moon just to feel halfway normal again. I didn’t really do a whole lot [Monday] but I got to talk to people and be out on the driving range.”

In addition to the financial assistance he has received from his family in Tennessee, Cloyd was aided by a benefit golf tournament at Beachwood Golf Club in May, and another is planned for Dec. 15 at Possum Trot.

The four-person team captain’s choice event has a 9 a.m. shotgun start. The entry fee of $50 per person includes lunch and prizes. Interested players can call the Possum Trot pro shop at 843-272-5341.

“That [Beachwood tournament] helped a lot and that Possum Trot tournament will help a lot,” Cloyd said. “We’re getting there. It could definitely be a lot worse.”

Bernat at TPC

Master Teaching Professional Joe Bernat has moved his golf school to the TPC of Myrtle Beach.

The Joe Bernat Golf Academy offers two-, three- and five-day schools as well as hourly instruction.

“It’s been a lifelong dream to get some place like this,” Bernat said. “The TPC – everybody wants to play this golf course. It has been fantastic.”

Bernat, 72, and Tom Heyward are Master Teaching Professionals on the Grand Strand. Instructors are required to graduate from four levels of schooling through the U.S. Golf Teachers Federation in Port St. Lucie, Fla., to earn the elite Master status.

Bernat has lived on the Strand since 1983, when he was playing on mini-tours. He entered the PGA of America apprentice program in 1990 while working at Colonial Charters Country Club (now Palmetto Shores) under then head pro Don Barnes en route to earning PGA Class A status.

Bernat played on the Sunbelt Senior Tour for a few years, played in the 1995 U.S. Senior at Pinehurst No. 2, and played in five Champions Tour events through Monday qualifiers.

He was director of instruction at Bay Tree Golf Plantation from 1995 until the three-course facility closed in 2006, was an instructor at Wachesaw East for three years, and spent the past three years operating his golf school at the International Club of Myrtle Beach in Murrells Inlet.

Assistant pros at the TPC assist Bernat with instruction when necessary. He said his instruction focuses on grip, aim, posture and alignment. “My philosophy of teaching is to work with a person’s individual ability,” Bernat said. “I don’t change everyone’s swing.”

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284. To view Blondin’s blog, Green Reading, or Twitter page visit myrtlebeachonline.com.

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