Recovering from life-threatening illness, Overton finds putt for MB trip uplifting

Pressure? A vacation for four to Myrtle Beach rode on this putt

Paying a visit to his alma mater, Indiana University, PGA golfer Jeff Overton attempted a 94-foot putt in an effort to help a fan earn a trip for four to Myrtle Beach.
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Paying a visit to his alma mater, Indiana University, PGA golfer Jeff Overton attempted a 94-foot putt in an effort to help a fan earn a trip for four to Myrtle Beach.

The putt may have won someone else a vacation to Myrtle Beach, but Jeff Overton got a lot out of it too.

The PGA Tour member holed a 94-foot putt last week at an Indiana University basketball game against Duke at famed Assembly Hall, winning another spectator a trip for four through a promotion sponsored by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

Though Overton didn’t win anything himself, the moment was uplifting.

Overton, 34, is on medical leave from the PGA Tour and nearly died about eight months ago from an infection in his spine. He’s just now getting back to the point he can fully swing a golf club, and the exhilaration of holing the putt in front of more than 17,000 celebrating fans did him some good.

“It was a really cool moment. It was definitely rejuvenating, that’s for sure,” Overton said in an interview with The Sun News. “It’s kind of a dream come try to be at Indiana and hit a putt on the court. To be able to hit it was awesome. It was just really an awesome experience, especially being out of the game so long.”

Overton, a 2005 Indiana graduate and one of the school’s most successful golf alums, has earned more than $12 million in his PGA Tour career despite not recording a win. He played on the U.S. Ryder Cup Team in 2010, a year in which he had three runner-up finishes and another two third-place finishes.

But Overton has played in just one PGA Tour event since July 2016, missing the cut in the Honda Classic in February. Around that time he received an injection to treat a herniated disk, and a life-threatening infection set in into the bones in his vertebrae, disintegrated parts of the bones and nearing the spinal column, which could have been fatal, Overton said.

He had emergency surgery eight months ago and was in a hospital bed for about a month. “I almost died. It’s been a really terrible road the last eight months,” Overton said.

He completed eight months of antibiotics last week, and finally took 19-year Indiana men’s golf coach Mike Mayer up on his request to have Overton take part in a promotion during halftime of a football or basketball game.

He met the spectator who was selected for the Myrtle Beach promotion on the court just before his putt from baseline to baseline to a 9-inch hole cut into a backboard.

“You don’t expect to have the opportunity to hit a 94-foot putt in Assembly Hall with the No. 1 team in the country. I didn’t actually expect it to go in,” Overton said. “When you grow up in southern Indiana and you’re a huge basketball fan, and will never get to play basketball at Assembly Hall, then you get to play your sport there and do something so rare, it was pretty crazy.”

Indiana native Fuzzy Zoeller, a winner to 10 PGA Tour events including two major championships, was also on the court and threw down several $100 bills near midcourt in jest. Overton’s putt nearly hit one of them.

“He’s like, ‘You’re not going to make this,’ ” Overton said. “The putt went right by a $100 bill. I should have probably picked it all up [after the putt]. I picked it up, but then I gave it back to him.”

Overton, who is married without children, has been putting and chipping during his recovery and is just getting back to full swings. “I’m working my butt off to try to get healthy again,” he said. “This is such a rare thing there are a lot of small things that have been damaged by everything.”

He said doctors can’t yet give him a time frame for his return to competitive golf, but he hopes to return sometime next year, hopefully early enough to play a few events before the four-event Tour playoffs, which would give him an opportunity to earn his PGA Tour card for 2019.

“It’s just been a very humbling experience,” Overton said. “You go from living the dream traveling on the PGA Tour and playing every week to all of a sudden you’re laid up in a hospital bed for a month and not having a life for awhile. It’s just nice to be alive and walking around.”

Alan Blondin: 843-626-0284, @alanblondin