Cauley returns to PGA TOUR after serious car accident
Set to make first start since June at Safeway Open at Silverado Resort & Spa
October 04, 2018
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Bud Cauley said it will be difficult to keep his emotions in check this week in Napa, California. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
NAPA, Calif. – The first thing Bud Cauley remembers after the accident is seeing the paramedics who had pulled him out of the back seat of the BMW.
The car had veered off the road, hit a culvert and gone airborne before striking a tree, then three others. The BMW finally came to rest in a ditch.
Cauley, who was one of four people in the car, was having trouble breathing because he had a collapsed lung. He also had a concussion, six broken ribs and a fracture in his left leg.
“It was really scary, first waking up,” Cauley recalls.
“Obviously, first in your mind is your quality life going forward. And then I thought about … golf and was I going to be able to play again and play the same way. All those things I worried about for a while.”
At 1 p.m. PT on Thursday at Silverado Resort, Cauley will tee it up in the Safeway Open. It will mark his first start on the PGA TOUR since the accident on that Friday night in June in Dublin, Ohio.
Cauley, who had just missed the cut at the Memorial Tournament, has spent the last four months regaining his strength as well as his swing. He’s anxious to test his game and grateful for the support he’s received along the way.
“Being out at the course these past couple days in Napa and all the guys that have come up – players, caddies, rules officials, people from the TOUR, just saying they're happy to see me back,” he says. “It's been really great.”
Cauley says he wouldn’t have come to California if he didn’t think he could be competitive. He thinks his biggest challenge won’t be managing his game around the scenic North Course, though – it will be keeping his emotions in check.
“I've put in all the work at home to practice and get my game ready, and I have done everything I can (with) workouts, to get my body in shape,” he explains.
“But I think a big thing for this week will be to manage my excitement and my nerves to go out there and kind of get back in the flow of it. Obviously having been four months since I teed it up is a long time for playing on TOUR.”
And Cauley has been through a lot.
Doctors inserted a tube to re-inflate the lung and another later to drain fluid from his chest that kept him in the hospital for several extra days. “I was awake for the first tube they put it, so that was not very much fun,” Cauley recalls.
On the Sunday after the crash, Cauley also had surgery to attach titanium plates to four of the ribs to stabilize them. Those are a permanent addition – but luckily he didn’t set off any alarms as he went through airport security this week.
“I was kinda worried about that when I flew out here,” Cauley says with a wry laugh. “But luckily, they didn't stop me and I didn't have to go through the whole spiel about why there were these things in my chest.”
Turns out the broken bone in Cauley’s leg was the least of his worries. It was non-weight-bearing so it simply healed with rest.
Once the fluid had drained, Cauley was able to leave the hospital. But he couldn’t fly so his parents came and took him to their home in Tennessee where he stayed for several weeks. Once he was well enough, his mother drove him to Florida.
“I just sat in the back seat surrounded by pillows for the drive,” Cauley recalls. “And then once I got to their house they have a recliner in their living room, so I just put some more pillows in there, got a blanket and sat in the recliner.”
At first, any kind of moment sent a searing pain into his chest. He had trouble sleeping and even taking a deep breath was problematic.
“To watch some movies, if I ever laughed it hurt,” Cauley says “It was about as uncomfortable and as much pain as I've ever felt.”
At first, the doctors couldn’t tell Cauley whether it would be a month, two months or three months before he healed enough to get back to playing golf. As it turned out, he hit his first ball, with a wedge, during the second week in August.
Cauley took it slow, working his way through the bag, while listening to his body and taking days off when needed to heal. He consulted a doctor in south Florida and came up with a plan of attack.
By early September Cauley’s golf game was starting to feel “familiar” again. He put the pain in his rear-view mirror and was able to go about his business like he did before the accident.
“Just to be able to go out there and work on my game and not be worried about it was kind of when I took a little bit of a breath was like … we're going to be okay,” Cauley says.
Good friends like Justin Thomas and Harold Varner checked in almost daily. And once Cauley started playing 18 holes regularly with buddies like Kevin Tway, Peter Uhlein, Rickie Fowler and Tom Lovelady, he knew he had turned the corner.
Cauley still experiences occasional soreness in his chest and ribcage. He can manage the inflammation with ice, though, so he’s ready to go.
“From where I was a couple of months ago to now is night day as far as how, how good it feels,” Cauley says.
And it will feel even better on Thursday when Cauley gets his 2018-19 PGA TOUR season under way.