Former Grand Strand resident Kris Blanks has his PGA Tour card secured for 2013. He just doesn’t know how much he’s going to use it.
Blanks has been battling a mysterious left shoulder injury that forced him to shut down his 2012 PGA Tour season in July and still has him unsure about his approach to the injury and 2013 season.
Blanks, 40, applied for a Major Medical Extension on tour in 2013, but as a backup plan he entered the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament and tied for fourth at 23-under-par 409 in the final stage to earn 2013 playing privileges.
He was exempt into the second stage of Q-School and tied for third at Plantation Preserve in Florida with a 16-under-par 63-70-68-67–268 to reach the final stage. He was able to practice very little in preparation for Q-School.
“I didn’t hardly practice at all,” Blanks said. “I’m not going to say I don’t know how I did it, but it was definitely a surprise to play that good in light of the condition and as little as I was able to do. I was blessed to be able to pull it off, now we’re trying to figure out how to get through this year. I’m not sure how we’re going to approach the season.”
Blanks, who lived on the Strand from 1996-2002 while bartending, waiting tables and working the bag drop at Wild Wing Plantation, said the pain shoots over the top of his shoulder and into the bicep from the middle of backswing through impact, and he also loses strength in the shoulder.
Famed sports orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews met with Blanks on Oct. 17 at his office in Pensacola, Fla., and looked at his MRI, took x-rays and put Blanks through a series of tests. Andrews told Blanks he believes the issue lies in the labrum but he won’t know the extent of the injury until he operates.
“He doesn’t think it’s torn or there’s a severe structural issue in my shoulder, but there’s something causing pain and weakness,” Blanks said. “After I saw him I just had to get through Q-school the best I could so it worked out good.
“I kind of knew going into it that just because I did what I did at Q-School I’m going to magically get better. I have to be able to practice and do the things I need to do and I can’t do that right now. When I do play, I can’t play like I want. I can’t hit shots as hard as I want to.”
Blanks took a couple shots of a cortisone steroid in the shoulder before Q-School, and doesn’t want to rely on quick fixes throughout the upcoming season.
“I wasn’t heavily drugged but I had taken a lot of medication for my ailments for that week [of Q-School],” Blanks said. “I don’t know if I want to do that every day for a whole season. If I do that all I’ll be doing is masking the problem.”
The 2013 season will be Blanks’ fifth on the PGA Tour. He has made 20 or more starts in each of the last four years. He made 11 cuts in 23 starts with only one top-25 finish in 2012 after finishing 65th on the 2011 money list with $1.35 million earned and seven top-10 finishes. He finished second in both the 2010 Puerto Rico Open and 2011 RBC Canadian Open, where he lost a playoff to Sean O’Hair.
Blanks was granted four starts in 2013 on his medical extension to earn $257,451 and improve his status, which is subject to a reshuffle as a 2012 Q-School graduate. He may end up seeking another medical exemption in 2014, depending on how much he plays this season.
“I’ve never been one to try to use the system so to speak, but I’m just getting to the point where I’m tired of playing hurt,” Blanks said. “I can’t practice like I want to and it’s just frustrating. We’re looking into all the possibilities and what will be best for us going forward. Getting through Q-School gives me options.”
Blanks is registered to play in the $5.6 million Sony Open from Jan. 10-13 at Waialae Country Club in Hawaii, but the shoulder was bothering him when he recently attempted to practice despite regular rehab and work out sessions.
His physical therapist suggested he take a couple weeks away from golf, so Blanks will see how he feels at the end of the week and make a decision on the Sony.
“They’re trying to figure out if it’s just wear and tear on my body or there was an event that happened that caused the injury,” said Blanks, who has lived in Jupiter, Fla., with his wife and two sons for about the past three years. “It’s difficult to get to where I can do things without wondering how I’ll feel after doing it.”
If Blanks doesn’t play in Hawaii he’ll likely visit Dr. Andrews again. “If he wants to do surgery we’ll do it and get it over with and get started on the next phase,” Blanks said. “That’s all we can do.”
Timber at Arcadian
If you have driven by or played Arcadian Shores Golf Club recently you’ve undoubtedly noticed that a number of trees have been cut down.
They are the first stage of a large tree removal project that is expected to continue through February and is designed to improve the golf course’s conditioning and playability.
The course is managed by National Golf Management, and Max Morgan, the company’s vice president of agronomy, said approximately 150 trees have been taken down and the plan is to eliminate about 1,200 trees – largely pine and gum trees that are impeding play, air flow and the growing of grass.
Morgan said the company hopes to retain the minimal number of live oaks on the property, which is less than a half mile from the ocean.
“There’s a lot of work to do at the course,” Morgan said. “We’re heading in the right direction. It’s going to take a lot of work to get there. It looks a lot different with the trees down and it will look a lot better when we’re done. It will make for better turf and better golf.”
If the project isn’t complete by March 1 it will likely be suspended until the spring golf season is complete. The course will remain open during the project.
The Rees Jones design opened in 1974 and many trees on the layout have become much larger and more invasive.
About 120 trees have been taken down on the 10th hole, which now has a wider landing area off the tee on the right side, and others have been taken down around the 17th and 18th, which has had a narrow tee shot because of encroaching trees. Morgan is also hoping to improve grass growth on the teeing areas of 11, 12 and 17.
The outside edges of some fairway bunkers have disappeared into the trees, and those areas will be cleared and sprinkler heads will be added to grow grass on the sides of bunkers and outskirts of fairways.
Morgan said National Golf Management is looking at more improvements at Arcadian Shores including installing ultradwarf Bermuadagrass on greens and repairing cart paths.
The work could be a precursor to Jones’ restoration project that has been discussed though hasn’t been scheduled. Jones’ tree expert was consulted before the tree removal project began.
Ladner added to staff
National Golf Management has hired Susan Ladner as its corporate controller. She has served in a similar position at the four-course St. James Plantation in Southport, N.C., which is managed by Troon Golf, a company that owns and operates numerous golf clubs in 31 states and 23 countries.
She has also had accounting positions in the hospitality, restaurant and printing industries over 15 years, with a particular emphasis on consolidating and streamlining financial systems. Ladner replaces former Ocean Ridge Plantation chief financial officer Brent Wise, who had a short stint with the company.
She will safeguard National Golf Management assets including its 22 owned and managed courses, golf packaging interests and merchandise.
Area pros on hiatus
The Areas Pros feature chronicling the weekly results of touring pros on the Grand Strand is not included in Tuesday’s paper because there were no events last week during the holidays. It will return next Tuesday.
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284. To view BLONDIN’s blog, Green Reading, or Twitter page visit myrtlebeachonline.com.