Golf

Grand Strand golf pro who reached top 15 in world having hip surgery, hopes to regain form

Conway native and longtime LPGA Tour member Kristy McPherson has battled illness and injury since her youth, which makes her rise to No. 14 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings in 2009 that much more impressive.

She has endured juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which left her bedridden for nearly a year at the age of 11 and 12, and has had multiple surgeries and medical procedures on her left elbow, which have been exacerbated and complicated by her arthritis.

She managed to remain a regular on the LPGA Tour for nine years from 2007-15 despite the challenges, and did so in spite of an additional injury that was unannounced.

McPherson, 38, is having hip surgery on Wednesday in Nashville. She said on Friday that she has had a torn labrum in her hip since 2009.

“It has been bad for a while, and has gotten worse over the last four to five years,” McPherson said. “I didn’t really tell anyone because I’ve had enough wrong with me. I just got to the point that physical therapy twice a day couldn’t do me any good.”

Doctors have told her she should eventually be free from pain and have a hip that will perform better than the injured hip has in the past several years.

“I have plans to get healthy and come back and play again,” McPherson said. “But my plans don’t always matter. We will see what God has in store for me. I look forward to a healthy and pain-free 2020.”

McPherson plans to rehab primarily at her home in Tampa, Florida, but will be at her parents’ home in Murrells Inlet and rehabbing in the area around upcoming holidays.

She has been told she will likely need crutches for eight weeks and may be able to swing a club again in four months, and the hip will feel better almost immediately.

“So I’m excited for that,” she said. “I can’t compete with the best in the world on it anymore. I’ve been stubborn enough. Even if I never play again, it needs to be fixed for everyday life. I hope to come back pain free and kill it, but who knows.”

McPherson earned LPGA Tour status last season after three years off the tour by tying for 27th in the LPGA’s Q-Series final last November. The Q-Series was billed as offering 45 full cards.

Yet she didn’t make her 2019 season debut until April 17 at the Lotte Championship in Hawaii. She had the misfortune of regaining her status in a year when an abnormal amount of players were returning to the tour from missed time because of injuries or maternity leave, and their status was better than McPherson’s.

So she was limited to just 10 events from April to August and made just one cut, tying for 74th to earn $3,672. Her scoring average was 73.40, which was 148th on tour.

She also dropped down to the Symetra Tour because of her limited starts on the LPGA, recording a tie for fourth among two top-20 finishes in nine events on the LPGA feeder circuit, which she played full-time for three years from 2004-06.

After winning a pair of SEC individual titles at South Carolina and not missing a cut in 60 Symetra Tour events, McPherson became a regular on the LPGA Tour beginning in 2007.

She rose to No. 14 and played on the 2009 U.S. Solheim Cup team before injuries derailed her career.

“Today was the last day I will pull into the course thinking, ‘How am I going to make it through the pain today,’ ” McPherson said on Instagram. “. . . I can’t play the game I love being in pain and playing less than 50 percent. That is no way to try to compete with the best in the world. I’ve tried it and clearly it doesn’t work.”

McPherson said if she’s healthy enough to play, she expects her lifetime status to get her into four or five LPGA Tour events in 2020. “So ideally I get into an event before the reshuffle and move up the list and get in more events,” she said.

She may attempt Monday qualifiers for some LPGA tournaments and has the Symetra Tour to fall back on. “It depends on how everything goes [Wednesday] and how I feel come March or April,” McPherson said. “If I feel great and get the speed back in my swing then I’ll go play what I can.”

Growing in popularity

The Fall Classic seemingly can’t expand its field fast enough.

The sixth annual Short Par 4 Fall Classic is again a sellout with 432 golfers registered from 36 states.

The 72-hole, two-player team event that is sponsored by the Short Par 4 golf attire company and conducted by Golf Tourism Solutions will be held Nov. 17-21 on 16 Grand Strand golf courses, including nine that have been ranked among the top 100 public courses in America by at least one national magazine.

The tournament increased its field by more than 100 players in 2018 in an attempt to meet demand, and golfers from across the nation filled the tournament even faster this year. More than two-thirds of the field is from outside the Carolinas.

Acclaimed courses being used include Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, the Fazio and Dye courses at Barefoot Resort, Grande Dunes Resort Course, Heritage Club, Long Bay, King’s North at Myrtle Beach National, Oyster Bay, Pawleys Plantation, Pine Lakes Country Club, Prestwick Country Club, Rivers Edge Golf Club, Thistle Golf Club, TPC Myrtle Beach, True Blue Golf Club and International World Tour Golf Links.

The entry fee of $395 includes four rounds of golf, a welcome reception, a Thursday evening awards banquet, and choice of a Short Par 4 pullover from Travis Mathew or Greg Norman. The Fall Classic has a different format each day, leading off with best ball followed by a Texas scramble, modified alternate shot and scramble. For more information visit www.MyrtleBeachFallClassic.com.

The Fall Classic is one of several tournaments conducted by Golf Tourism Solutions throughout the year, including the PlayGolfMyrtleBeach.com World Amateur Handicap Championship in late August.

Alan Blondin covers golf, Coastal Carolina athletics and numerous other sports-related topics that warrant coverage. Well-versed in all things Myrtle Beach, Horry County and the Grand Strand, the Northeastern University journalism school valedictorian has been a sports reporter at The Sun News since 1993, earning eight top-10 Associated Press Sports Editors national writing awards and 18 top-three S.C. Press Association writing awards since 2007.
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