Back on course
GOLF: Chris Baryla is excited to be golfing again after three hip surgeries.
Chris Baryla had almost forgotten what it felt like.
For too many years now, the words golf and pain have gone together for the former twotime B. C. junior champion from Vernon. He couldn’t have the former without the latter.
But earlier this week, Baryla played golf for the first time since his latest — and he hopes last — surgery and felt great during and after the round.
Oh, there is surely some rust to shake off his game, but Baryla’s body co- operated.
“It went well,” Baryla, 31, said in a telephone interview this week. “Everything felt good. No pain, no residual stuff when I woke up the next morning.”
Amid all the excitement in the British Columbia golf community about the fact that three B. C. players — Adam Hadwin, Nick Taylor and Roger Sloan — are beginning their rookie seasons on the PGA Tour, it is easy to forget that Baryla was the last British Columbian to have full- time status on the PGA Tour.
He likes to think he’d still have it without all the pain he endured while trying to play. Now, for the first time in a long while, there is a glimmer of hope that he can get back to golf’s promised land.
“I would definitely say I am cautiously optimistic,” Baryla said. “I am excited that I am able to get up in the morning and able to workout and do the things that I want and there’s no pain. That first and foremost is what I am excited about. I can go for a hike with my son on my back and enjoy that kind of stuff and I can go play golf and not be on pain medication or ice.
“Now with my golf game, obviously once I start practising and grinding and seeing how good I can get, we’ll kind of know more about where my golf career goes. But I am very confident in myself when I am healthy. I have no reason to believe that I can’t win if my body will co- operate.”
Baryla knows that is a big if. He has fought back and neck issues for years, long before the surgeries started. He had some procedures done on his back and one of his feet before doctors realized it was a hiprelated problem that was causing all the pain.
He has had three separate hip surgeries, the last one in June. His round of golf this week was the first since that surgery.
“I had torn all the cartilage out and it was kind of bone on bone in there and it was causing a lot of other issues up the track,”
I can go for a hike with my son on my back and enjoy that kind of stuff and I can go play golf and not be on pain medication or ice.
FORMER PGA TOUR GOLFER
Baryla said. “They did my left hip in 2010 and everything turned out great. They said at the time I’d likely have to have the right one done because it was degenerating. I chose not to do it then and waited for a couple of years. That was 2013, and then there was a little bit of an issue with how it healed. It wasn’t quite performing as it should. There was a little more work they needed to do, and so they went back in this June and — fingers crossed — I will be all right now.”
Baryla earned his PGA Tour status after a terrific 2009, when he won on the Web. com Tour. He started his rookie season on the PGA Tour in 2010 and attempted to play through pain that often was excruciating.
“My physio guy was doing everything he could to just keep me on the golf course,” Baryla said.
Halfway through that 2010 season, Baryla opted to have his first hip surgery and then returned to play 2011 after surviving qualifying school. He lost his card after the 2011 season, went back to the Web. com Tour in 2012 but again was having major back issues. He has not played a competitive round of golf since September 2012.
His recent medical struggles have been made easier by the arrival of son Arthur, who wife Amelie delivered about a year ago. Baryla said Arthur, who has his own Twitter account and is just beginning to walk, has helped put his health struggles in perspective.
“Having him around the house and being home to spend more time with him has been fantastic,” Baryla said. “That is absolutely a wonderful side to all this.”
Not that he needs the extra motivation, but Baryla has been buoyed by the success of Hadwin, Sloan and Taylor. He knows all three players well.
“It’s awesome,” said Baryla, a University of Texas- El Paso graduate who now lives in Texas. “It’s a pretty positive deal where there is an opportunity to have six or seven fulltime Canadian PGA Tour players, which we certainly haven’t had in a while. It’s a pride thing for Canada, for B. C. Seeing people work hard and have success is inspirational, whether it be other golfers, other sports or business, or whatever. I like greatness. I like seeing people have success and seeing hard work pay off.”
Baryla also likes comeback stories, and now hopes to write one himself. He will spend the fall working on his game and seeing if his body continues to co- operate. If all goes well, he will play in some smaller events and then try for some early tournaments on the Web. com Tour, where he has some status as a past champion.
“In the next couple of weeks,” he said, “I will probably play two or three times a week and assuming there is no pain or setbacks, I’ll start ramping it up a little more. The biggest thing is getting on the range and hitting 200 or 300 balls. That is actually a lot harder than just playing a round of golf.
“So once I can get back to doing that, once I can get back to playing golf four, five, six days in a row, then I will think about playing a golf tournament somewhere.”