Tanner Kesterson’s FJ Invitational title defense started Tuesday with a ho-hum round of 72. Though he’s nine shots off the pace, his score doesn’t reflect the 246 days that have passed since he last posted an AJGA tournament round.
Last October, Tanner suffered from three fractured vertebrae when he fell off a 12-foot ledge onto concrete in a golf cart accident. Surgery wasn’t needed, but he was bedridden for six weeks and wasn’t able to walk outside the house until eight weeks after the accident.
“This is what I’ve worked for. This is what I do every day. These are my dreams, so it was tough when the doctor said it was going to be six months,” Tanner said. “It was scary, so I’m just thankful to be out here playing again. It makes me look at life a lot differently.”
He tried to play at the HP Boys Championship at Carlton Woods in February, but withdrew after nine holes. Even then, he didn’t have clearance to use every club in his bag – he couldn’t hit driver until mid-March.
“I played well with the 3-wood. It taught me how to score a little bit better, that you don’t always need to bomb it off the tee,” Tanner said.
According to his doctors, it will take 12 to 18 months for his vertebrae to completely heal. After adhering to ball count limitations for several months, Tanner can now practice at his own pace.
“I’ll feel it after a round, probably because I’m walking and I’m grinding everything out. But if I feel it, I’ll take a couple days off and just do short game,” he said. “This is something I want to do for the rest of my life so I’m not in any rush.”
A light summer schedule will include a couple amateur events, including a U.S. Amateur qualifier, but the recent high school graduate said that he’s focused on enjoying his summer before starting at Oklahoma State in the fall.
Tanner said he’s excited to be making his return at Sedgefield Country Club – a course where he claimed his first Invitational title and made his PGA TOUR debut last August. But above all else, he’s focused on the positives that have emerged from his accident last fall.
“I don’t know how most other kids would take it, but you can either take it in a negative way or a positive way. You have to look at the positive things through all of it,” Tanner said. “I just try to look at all the positives because if I look at the negatives, it’d be really hard because there are a lot of them. I just don’t think about them.”
By Chris Richards, AJGA Communications