By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- For the first time in nearly five years, Hank Kuehne will play in a tournament at this week’s Honda Classic. Just over a year ago, he didn’t think that would ever again be possible.
Besieged by back injuries the last half-decade plus, Kuehne, once one of the longest hitters on the PGA TOUR, was resigned to the fact that he might never again play professionally. Not after seeing 13 different doctors who told him “we can’t help you.”
That’s when Kuehne, at the urging of his father, visited Dr. Peter Wehling in Dusseldorf, Germany, where a method of blood spinning -- small samples of blood are spun in a centrifuge to increase the concentration of growth hormones, calcium and enzyme thrombin are added and the sample is injected into the wound -- was applied to Kuehne’s spine.
Wehling is the same doctor who healed the notoriously bad backs of Fred Couples and Vijay Singh.
“I didn't want to go. I didn't have a good attitude about going,” Kuehne said Wednesday. “I'm like, well, what's this quack going to tell me that 13 guys here haven't told me.”
What they told him, ultimately, is that he would be able to play golf again, which he will do for the first time since the 2007 FedEx St. Jude Classic.
The worst part of the treatment, Kuehne said, was an injection into his hip with a needle that was “about the size of No. 2 pencil.”
During that time away, Kuehne could have undergone surgery to take away the pain but says that would not have necessarily fixed the problem.
At one point, however, the pain was so bad that Kuehne couldn’t walk.
“Of course I considered quitting,” said Kuehne, who seemed to be destined for stardom after winning the 1998 U.S. Amateur. “I gave up.
“When you go from being healthy individual to not really having any problems and able to do everything else -- the most difficult part is not really just being able to function in day-to-day life. Not being able to play golf was extremely difficult. But when your child looks at you and smiles and comes and runs up with his arms wide open and wants you to pick him up and you can't do it, it doesn't feel real good.”
Now Kuehne does feel good. Playing on a major medical exemption, he will have 18 events to earn $636,221 to get his TOUR card.
That, however, is the last thing on his mind.
“All I can do is worry about my golf game and play the best that I can play,” Kuehne said. “If I play good golf, I think that number is insignificant. It will take care of itself.”