blake adams

Blake Adams finished in the top 10 at Kiawah, but will watch on TV this year.

Adams making best of time away after surgery

By Stan Awtrey, Contributor

A year ago Blake Adams fought through the difficult conditions at Kiawah Island, as well as the nerves that come along with playing in the PGA Championship, and posted his first career top-10 in a major tournament.

Adams didn't get flustered by the winds that rattled many of the more experienced players and wound up tied for seventh. That was good enough to earn him an automatic exemption into the 2013 PGA Championship.

But as the field assembles this week at Oak Hill, Adams isn't among them. He's back home in Swainsboro, Ga., impatiently recovering from hip surgery that ended his 2013 season after only four competitive rounds. Instead of teeing it up at Oak Hill, he'll be watching on his big screen.

Adams, 37, learned in 2008 that he needed hip replacement surgery, but he played through the pain thanks to a series of semiannual shots that eased the discomfort and helped with mobility. He was also told that the shots would eventually stop working, a reality that hit him this year at the Humana Challenge in Palm Springs, Calif. He tried to play the next week at Torrey Pines, but withdrew and flew to Colorado for surgery.

Dr. Marc Philippon of Vail., Colo., who operated on 2012 Tour Championship winner Brandt Snedeker, removed three bone spurs and a large cyst, and shaved and reshaped Adams' femur. He then drilled holes in the femur and filled them with stem cells that are expected to grow and replace the damage.

One doctor was amazed that Adams dealt with the pain for so long, but walking away isn't easy when you've made $3.3 million over the last three seasons and started to establish yourself as a player. 

It took Adams a decade to become an overnight sensation. He played three years at Georgia before transferring to Georgia Southern, where he graduated, and turned pro in 2001. After scuffling around on the mini-tours, Adams earned a spot on the Tour.

He got his PGA Tour card in 2010 and has made steady progress. He made his first appearance in a major last year and tied for 21st at the U.S. Open. He followed that with that tie for seventh at the PGA Championship. 

So just when Adams seemed poised for a breakthrough season – and possibly earn a spot in the Masters that he craves so badly – he found himself immobile. He spent eight weeks on crutches during the rehab process, learning how to do rudimentary tasks while hobbling around the house.

"It was a very humbling experience," he said. "To be playing on the PGA Tour one day and the next you can't climb stairs or carry a bowl of cereal to the table."

He's back to swinging a club again. Right now he's worked his way back up to a 5-iron and has set a goal to be playing on the Tour again in October. He's even considering a test run at a Tour event later this summer.

In the meantime, he's been busy helping start the Blake Adams Academy of Golf at the Lane Creek Golf Club outside Athens, Ga. Adams said he has dreamed of establishing a teaching center for about 10 years, and has seriously pursued it for the last two, while his career has been in full bloom. 

Since his surgery in January, Adams has had a lot of time to help get the teaching center up to speed. His personal instructor, PGA Professional John Tillery, will run the academy. Tillery also works with PGA Tour winner Scott Brown. Adams has been spending a lot of time on-site. Last week he arrived every day at 7:00 a.m. and turned the lights off around 9:00 p.m.

"Having hip surgery gave me the time to dive into it," Adams said. "But I found out it is a time-consuming endeavor."

Adams has had a chance to watch some golf on television, an opportunity he rarely got when he was playing every week. He'd rather be competing, but admitted he has learned by being a spectator.

''To watch from the fan's point of view and see how guys go about their business and win a golf tournament has been really neat,'' he said. ''I've learned that golf is not a game of perfection. You're never going to be perfect all the time. You realize that the more you watch.''