Note: Madison Pressel, the 2014 Decatur Forsyth Classic champion, had the toughest golf season of her life in 2015. Due to a wrist injury, she was limited to only four events. It took seven doctors to finally get a diagnosis and plan that she felt comfortable with. Even on January 1, 2016, three months after surgery, she still wasn’t ready to hit golf shots. It was Dr. Fatti at Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists (SOS) that “fixed” Madison and got her on the long path to recovery.
Now, she is nearly pain free with the golf swing and will return for the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic, April 8-10, and wants to contend again like she did when in her rookie campaign.
We spoke to Madison on Friday, Feb. 27 from her home in Boca Raton, Fla. where she is training for her return.
Q: How is your road to recovery coming?
Madison: Right now, I’m two days away from hitting shots fully off the ground so that means that I will finally be able to go out and play some holes and be ready for Lake Wales (Florida’s Natural Charity Classic). I’m almost pain free, not quite there yet. I’m still struggling a little, but not in the golf swing so that is a big bonus.
Q: What has the process of getting healthy been like?
Madison: Last year, before the season started, it was the week after I did the Monday Qualifier for the Coates Golf Championship I went and got an MRI on my wrist because I was having chronic pain. It wasn't like I fell, it was nothing traumatic. I know my body and I knew something wasn’t right. The doctor told me it was most likely a bone bruise because nothing was showing up in the MRI. It all looked structurally good. We put a brace on it and I rested for four weeks and came out of the brace and absolutely nothing was different. That was the trend for the next four months, I was in and out of a brace. I was trying to play, I played in Greenwood and Asheville and then I went to play Charlotte. I was in tears with so much pain and I had to end up withdrawing from that event to go see a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic who gave me my second cortisone shot in May, which means rest for another couple of weeks. During that time, I worked with the Danielle Downey tournament (in Rochester) and did the behind the scenes stuff for them while I couldn’t play. It was nice to still be involved in the Symetra Tour. It was really, really important to me to play that tournament after being so involved. After playing that tournament, I went back on the rest thing and saw another doctor and he finally told me he knew what was wrong with me and that was after seeing seven doctors. Every one up until then said I was fine, but I knew I couldn’t grip the club and had pain in my takeaway and on impact so I knew something wasn’t right. It was quite the struggle of a year and just frustrating because you know your body and you know when something doesn’t feel right, but unfortunately the medical images weren’t showing anything. It had been nine months at this point and I made the decision with my grandfather that we should go in and do a scope. This doctor was positive on what was wrong with me and he wound up finding even more. I was confident with him and the worst thing that was going to happen was he was going to go in and find nothing. I’m glad we found something and fixed it.
Q: What have you done since the scope?
Madison: I was in a cast for a little while after the surgery and in and out of brace. Whenever I was doing movement, I had to be in a brace. Even when I was sleeping, I had to be in the brace. I gradually transitioned out of it and then started physical therapy. It has been non-stop physical therapy and I am still not 100 percent yet, but no pain in the golf swing which is something that if you asked me that last year, I didn’t think I’d be able to have no pain in the swing by now.
Q: Was 2015 mentally very hard for you?
Madison: Last year was a very tough year. Not knowing when you’re going to be able to play because all the doctors are telling you that you’re OK is tough. It was a mental fear of knowing in your swing that you’re going to have pain so then you’re going to change your swing. That causes even more problems. You can’t really compete when you’re unsure of where you are going to go in your swing. That was the big fear for me and why I kept taking time off. I didn’t want to change my swing because of my wrist. I really wanted to make sure I had a fundamentally sound swing. I didn’t want to make mistakes in the swing because of the injury. Plus, I wasn’t getting a paycheck. Not knowing when you’re going to be able to compete and earn money is a tough thing. I ended up working for Mike Vadala’s (Tournament Director for the Danielle Downey Classic) company at the Federal Credit Union. I ended up working at the Credit Union for a couple months while I was deciding to get surgery and post-surgery just to keep me busy and that was probably the best thing I could do because I wasn’t just sitting around thinking when am I going to be able to get back to golf. Normally, my day is full of workout and practice, but my workout was limited and I couldn’t play so I was bored and this job (full-time) kept me busy and helped me earn some money. I worked from the end of August through December in Syracuse.
Q: Will the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic be your first event back?
Madison: Yes, it will be my first time competing. I’m really antsy to get moving. I haven’t played since the Danielle Downey event, which is a very, very long time ago. It is the longest I have ever gone without competing. I’m sure I will be quite nervous going back into it, but right now it is a really good anxious to get playing and traveling again. I’m ready to get back to what I was doing my rookie year. I feel like it is going to be like riding a bike, I honestly do. I had an injury in college where I had to take time off. I did the same thing where I worked over the summer at a wealth management firm so I’ve done this before on a much smaller scale so it’s just another thing to overcome. It’ll be weird coming back since I haven’t done it for a while, but at the same time, I’ve played golf my whole life. I don’t want to go out just to play. I want to make sure I’m competing and relevant. I am going out to have fun, but I am going out to win and to be on the top 10 on the money list (Volvik Race for the Card).
Q: Has all the Yoga you do helped you during this process?
Madison: Before my injury, I was able to do a lot more yoga. Now, I am a little limited. I still struggle when my wrist is in extension like a push up position. Whenever I have pressure on it in that position, I can’t do it. I struggle to do yoga now so hopefully I’ll be able to get back into it. When I was able to do it everyday, it helped my core and upper body strength like you wouldn’t believe. It also helped my mind over matter. You’re doing these poses that you see and you’re thinking there is no way my body can move that way. If you can get over the fear of it, you’d be amazed at what you can do. I think that has helped me out on the golf course. Also, when you’re doing your breathing exercises they tell you to relax certain parts of your body and you kind of learn to feel different parts of your body. For example, I’m able to relax my right solder blade or a muscle in my leg. You’re much more in tuned to your body.
Q: Have you consulted any athletes about dealing with injuries?
Madison: Not really because going into it I didn’t even know what was wrong so I didn’t really have anyone to compare it to. I know Paula (Creamer) had something wrong with her wrist, Michelle Wie has had problems and my sister has had problems, but nothing she has had to take time off for. It happens to so many people that it just is a matter of how your body can react to it. I was just more nervous what they were going to find. When I still wasn’t able to take full shots January 1, I was really nervous, but the doctor told me everything was fixed and it’s just scar tissue in there. Everyone’s body reacts differently. Two and half months (post-surgery) was the ideal time frame, but it took me a little longer. Honestly, once the doctor said everything is fixed, it made the fear in my swing go away. Now I can swing freely without the fear.