Monday 19 February 2018

Brain surgery puts Holmes back on track

JB Holmes. Photo: AP
JB Holmes. Photo: AP

James Corrigan

An American with an unbeaten Ryder Cup record is a rarity. But then an elite golfer playing with a metal plate in his head marks out J B Holmes as a one-off.

Holmes's tale is one of the more uplifting. Five years ago, the big-hitter was told that the extreme dizziness which caused him to shoot an 80 in the first round of the US PGA, before withdrawing, was down to structural defects in the brain known as Chiari malformations.

He had a choice. Continue to be blighted with vertigo or undergo an operation not without serious risks. Within three weeks, Holmes was under the knife, having a titanium plate inserted at the base of the skull. The problems did not end there, as the medics discovered he was allergic to the adhesive, and he was airlifted from his home in Kentucky to for more surgery. Four months later he was on the Tour trying to piece his career back together.

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"There was a fear that it could all be taken away from me," he said. "I could have carried on making cuts and finishing 40th but it's not what you want. If I'd have worked at a desk I'd have probably carried on and tried to deal with it. But doing what I do, being dizzy now and again meant I'd hit five good shots and then chunk one 50 yards. That's OK playing with your pals, but not on Tour."

Holmes's hardship made headlines around the world. The response he received overwhelmed him, as those with the same condition reached out. "There were a lot of people who contacted me saying they had the same problem, and that I really inspired them," he said. "I'm happy that I've made people aware of it, especially young kids who can still see their lives can be fulfilled. God gives you trials and tests and you just have to learn from the experiences. Maybe all the stuff I went through wasn't necessarily for me; maybe it was so I could inspire someone else."

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Holmes is playing down his rediscovery of success. It was a hellish road back. The vertigo he'd suffered for years led to his dropping out of the world's top 100. In 2013 he played only six events. He did not have the luxury of a gradual comeback, as medical exemptions only last so long. By 2014 he was ranked 262nd. The Ryder Cup 2008 glory, when he won two-and-a-half points out of three in his home state, seemed a world away.

"You do it in lumps - get back playing, get competitive, start winning. Of course, the Ryder Cup was a goal, because as soon as you make one team, you want to make another."

Victory at the Wells Fargo Championship in May 2014 proved the spark that eventually got him back on the road to Hazeltine. (© Daily Telegraph,London)

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