My Shot I broke my back and almost died, but I never doubted that I would play--and win--again

May 06, 2001

At Georgia in 1998 I won four tournaments and was the NCAA
women's freshman player of the year, but I didn't get my next
victory until last month's LSU Invitational. As I walked up the
18th fairway with a lead in the final round, my playing partner,
Auburn's Courtney Swaim, said something I never expected to hear
from an opponent. "C'mon, Reilley," she urged, "you've got one
more good one left." That wasn't the first time Courtney had been
there for me. On June 4, 1999, she got me through something much
more important than a golf tournament.

Courtney and I were unwinding at Lake Martin, 40 miles north of
Montgomery, Ala., when I decided to conquer Chimney Rock, a
67-foot lakeside cliff. I wasn't so gung ho when I got to the
top, but that didn't mean I wasn't determined. I stood on the
rock and watched guys jump for an hour. Finally, I took a running
leap.

I landed on my butt. After struggling underwater for what seemed
like an eternity, I bobbed to the surface. Courtney swam to me
and helped get me ashore. I was having a hard time breathing, so
Courtney rushed me to a hospital. An hour later, in the emergency
room, I still didn't know what was wrong, but I felt I might die.
I was really afraid when one of the seven doctors standing over
me said I had broken my back and sternum, which had bruised my
heart, lungs and aorta. The doctors were afraid to move me
because they didn't have a heart surgeon on staff.

I spent the next four months in a body brace. I missed golf, but
every day I pretended it was raining and the course was closed. I
was in rehab for 14 months and didn't play in a tournament again
until last November.

Winning at LSU made me so happy. As Courtney and I hugged and
cried on the 18th green, she whispered, "Reilley, I am so proud
of you, and thanks for proving that you're going to be all
right."

Rankin leads the Lady Bulldogs with a 73.06 scoring average.

COLOR PHOTO: PERRY MCINTYRE
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)