Injuries are part of the story for pro athletes. We ice, rest, rehab, maybe get minor surgery, and we're back on the field. But recurring injuries and multiple surgeries are another thing. I believe golfers, more than other athletes, define their identities by their score. Paychecks and job security are based on playing well. Period. So what happens when the physical ability to perform is taken away? The questions become, "Who am I?", "What purpose do I serve?" I faced those questions in 2002 after my first shoulder surgery. I came back too soon, pushed too hard and as a result spent more time in rehab over the next two years than on my game.
Pro athletes are also control freaks. We want to determine our schedule, preparation, performance and message. Injuries take all of that away. Sound like the Tiger Woods(right) of the last year or so? He admitted he came back too early from last year's injury. Achilles tendon issues that seemed minor have now caused multiple withdrawals. He has spent more time rehabbing than improving and can't set an ideal schedule. For the athlete, it is maddening. My "What am I doing?" moment came in June 2004, while I was lying in the fetal position having a spinal tap. I was playing in pain and not for myself, but for my family, friends and sponsors. Enough was enough. It was time for life to be defined by something other than a score. The relief I felt was beyond words. Tiger isn't there yet, but the injuries and setbacks take a physical and emotional toll. When his day does come, let him be. There's more to life than a score.
Dottie Pepper is a 17-year LPGA vet and on-course reporter for NBC.