Most professional golfers reach for a club or an iron to improve their game. Four years ago, Fred Funk chose an orthopedic surgeon's chisel to improve his.
After suffering for years with chronic knee pain, Funk underwent a knee replacement surgery in the fall of 2009, reversing what can be a career-ending injury. The next year he became the first pro golfer to win a PGA Tour event after a total knee replacement surgery.
The Maryland native is playing in the U.S. Senior Open this weekend, a tournament he won in 2009. The first round of the 2013 tournament starts Thursday in Omaha.
How is the 57-year-old hoping to finish? “First,” he said this week during a visit to Methodist Hospital, near 85th Street and West Dodge Road. Funk is a spokesman for Stryker Orthopaedics , the company that designed his new knee.
He met with orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists and knee replacement patient John Jones of Omaha at the hospital on Tuesday. Jones' left knee was replaced six years ago and his right was replaced in 2012. He scheduled his surgery for January so he would be ready to play golf by April.
He and Funk talked about how the pain affected their golf games and how their play has improved since.
Though Funk's left knee absorbs the torque of his swing, his right knee was the problem. The pain started in the 1970s after a skiing accident and flared up again in the last decade. It worsened as he planted on his right leg at each hole, which forced him to work around his injury.
“I couldn't play at the level I needed to...I could barely walk, much less swing a golf club,” he said.
He spent six hours a day with a physical therapist for weeks after his surgery. He “pushed and pushed and pushed,” and soon his range of motion and strength returned. Within six weeks, the professional golfer was back on the fairway, and within 13, he returned to competition.
“It gave me the opportunity to go back without thinking about my knee,” he said.
Now, Funk said, “I'm feeling the best I've felt all year.”
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