Jason Bohn returns to Honda Classic a year after heart attack

By Sarah Peters
Published on
Jason Bohn returns to Honda Classic a year after heart attack

PALM BEACH GARDENS -- Jason Bohn had just finished his second round at last year's Honda Classic when he reported breathlessness and discomfort to the tournament medical staff.

The PGA Tour veteran didn't think much of it at the time, rationalizing it was merely repercussions from a bout with the flu and bronchitis he got while playing Pebble Beach two weeks earlier.

After all, he had made the 36-hole cut, and a good finish would qualify him for the next week's WGC-Match Play Championship, which took the top 64 in the world.

"It was just when I would walk, I would feel a tightness and shortness of breath," Bohn recalled last week, speaking by phone from Pebble Beach, where he was paired with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the Pro-Am.

But inside the PGA National Resort & Spa locker room, city paramedics sensed it was something more serious and insisted he go to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center.

After an ambulance ride, Bohn got the shocking news -- he had suffered a minor heart attack.

There was nothing remarkable about his EKG, and a diagnostic blood test was barely positive, Dr. Jyoti Mohanty said. But Mohanty just had a "gut feeling" with Bohn's symptoms that something wasn't right. Mohanty had decided to do an angiogram, which is an X-ray of blood flow in an artery, that confirmed his suspicions.

The blockage had been 99 percent. And it was in the left anterior descending artery, often termed the widow-maker. The term is used because it supplies blood to large areas of the heart and if one is abrubtly blocked, it could lead to sudden death.

"He was very lucky. He came to the right place at the right time," Mohanty said.

Bohn doesn't take what happened lightly, but he hasn't lost his sense of humor and is one of the more upbeat players on the Tour.

He quipped last year that the notoriously difficult Bear Trap -- the three-hole stretch at 15, 16 and 17 -- trapped his heart even though he parred all three holes to make the cut. Nonetheless, the 43-year-old pro said he's ready to give it another try when the first round of play starts Feb. 23.

"I'm going to embrace the challenge, to realize a year ago I was pretty close to not making it out of the Bear Trap," said Bohn, who lives near Atlanta with his wife and two sons.

The day before this year's tournament, he plans to return to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center to say thank you to Mohanty and the nurses who cared for him.

Bohn said he feels strong again. Completing intense cardiac rehab helped him regain his mental game. Making changes to his new medication has minimized the intense dizziness he felt at first.

"It definitely is an adjustment, but I feel great," said Bohn, who graduated from Alabama in 1995 with a degree in finance. "I feel strong. I feel healthy."

But there was an adjustment, both physically and mentally for the two-time PGA Tour winner.

Mom has triple bypass surgery

Mohanty put in a stent, and Bohn was on his way back home the Tuesday after the Honda Classic had ended. Tewana Bohn wanted to rush to Palm Beach Gardens to be with her husband, but he urged her to stay at home with their sons, then 8 and 10.

Bohn's father and his in-laws came to the hospital. His mother stayed home in Central Florida doing "a lot of floor pacing."

"I got the call on my way home (from an event), and I would not believe that he was having a heart attack," Carol Bohn said.

Jason's father left immediately for the three-hour drive to Palm Beach County.

"I don't even think we packed a toothbrush. It was very, very fast," she said.

The family was unaware of any history of heart disease at that time. That would soon change.

A few weeks after her son's scare, Carol Bohn found out she required triple bypass surgery. She, too, felt a tightness in her chest walking up hill, despite normally walking three or four miles a day.

A friend who is an emergency medical technician in Pennsylvania advised her to go back to the doctor. She went to see a female cardiologist -- because men and women sometimes have different symptoms -- and learned of her own blockage.

"At that point, we really suspected we had heart disease in our family," Carol Bohn said.

The 72-year-old said she's always exercised and ate healthy, which doctors told her kept her heart problems at bay for a decade. She does Zumba five days a week. She's been able to resume daily life with as much or more energy than before the operation.

"Jason and I are both very grateful that we can hug each other and the ones we love... and carry on with our lives," Carol Bohn said.

For people with none of the other risk factors of heart disease -- high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking -- genetics usually plays a role, Mohanty said.

Getting back in the game

For Jason, recovery was much quicker than he thought it would be. Cardiac rehab involved riding a bike, running on a treadmill and rowing on a rowing machine with a heart monitor attached to him.

The hardest part of recovering from heart attack at a young age is, in a way, mental -- always wondering if it's going to happen again. The cardiac rehab showed him that it was safe to exert himself.

It's normally eight weeks with two to three workouts per week, but Bohn said he pushed himself to get cleared to get back on the golf course as soon as possible. He was playing again after six weeks, returning to the Tour at Hilton Head, S.C.

Bohn said he's learned to better manage stress and keep golf in perspective. He's played in nine events this season, earning $99,780 and is ranked 152nd on the Tour. For his career, Bohn has earned close to $16 million, but he knows his health is worth more than any extra earnings.

Even feeling 100 percent, there are no expectations going into this year's Honda Classic.

"The expectation is to stay out of the hospital, and I think I'll do that successfully," he said.

This article was written by Sarah Peters from The Palm Beach Post and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network.