What they said: J.B. Holmes

January 24, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: Farmers Insurance Open transcript archive MARK STEVENS: Like to welcome J.B. Holmes. J.B., you're making your first start on TOUR since your surgery. If you kind of want to talk about your preparation for this week and thoughts on coming back after the long break.

J.B. HOLMES: Yeah, it feels like it's been forever, but I'm just happy to be back. I've been working pretty hard the last few weeks. Just ready to get back out here and get back into the competitive tournament and just see how it goes.

Q. Can you just kind of give us a quick synopsis of everything you've been through to this point??

J.B. HOLMES: Yeah, I mean, it was a long process last year, but I guess compared to a lot of people that have had that, I caught it fairly quick. I started getting vertigo like symptoms at THE PLAYERS. I was pretty dizzy and withdrew the next week. Ended up going to five or six doctors before I really decided it could be this. Then it could have been migraines, and they tried this medicine and nothing really worked.

So the last doctor, the sixth doctor I've seen said you probably need to have surgery. He thought -- he said there are no guarantees, but that will probably help and you help cure you of your symptoms. So just decided to go ahead and do that.

Did it pretty quickly after that. The first week of the playoffs, first or second weeks of the playoffs is actually when I had it done. The surgery went well. Then about a month later I started getting fluid around the scar and then got real sick that night.

Sunday I don't even really remember. I was in the hospital for about a week, and ended up having to go back in. I ended up being allergic to the glue, and a stitch came loose back there. So they had to fix that.

So I had the second surgery. After that, everything's gone pretty much according to plan. I got most of the rotation back in my neck. I'm about 85% on the rotation in my neck. Just takes a little time to get -- not back as quick as you want, so it just took a lot longer.

I've never had to sit still that long in my life. There were four or five months that I just couldn't do a whole lot. So it was really frustrating.

Q. Is it a genetic thing??

J.B. HOLMES: They don't think it's genetic. There is nothing they've linked that to. A lot of people have it their whole life and never have the symptoms. I've had it my whole life, and the symptoms started and that's kind of how it is.

Q. What goes through your mind when somebody tells you need to have surgery on your brain??

J.B. HOLMES: You know, it's scary at first. Talking to the surgeon and stuff, he said for a brain surgery, difficultywise for him it was only about a 1 out of 10. So that makes you feel -- it's still brain surgery, but that at least made me feel better.

He said he had done 250, 300 of them. It wasn't like it was his first one. So he knew what he was doing. So I was just confident in my surgeon and what he knew how to do. I really didn't think.

I just kept it out of my mind, basically until the day of. Then I got to the hospital and started putting on the gown and everything else, and it was like, wow, I'm about to have brain surgery. So it really hits you then. But you've just got to put your faith in God and just hope everything comes out good.

Q. When you talk about getting some confidence in your brain surgeon, was the scariest part then when you started getting the fluid and getting as sick as you did before going in for number two??

J.B. HOLMES: Yeah, I got a little worried when I felt that and I called them. Well, it sometimes happens, like it wasn't that big of a deal. They said that initially, I was like they're not too worried about it, I'm not going to worry about it. I'll just keep an eye on it if it gets worse or whatever. Then three or four days after I noticed it, I got really sick one night.

Q. What do you mean real sick??

J.B. HOLMES: I was vomiting. I was vomiting and ended up going to -- I felt bad most of the day, then I started vomiting. Any time you get something to deal with your brain and you start doing that -- so I went to the hospital. Put me on some painkillers. I was in a lot of pain.

Actually, they had me on so much painkillers I didn't remember much. I woke up in Baltimore. I started out in Campbellsville and woke up in Baltimore. So I remember vaguely getting on the plane and getting off. I woke up and just kind of looked around, and a head nurse came in. I said do I have a cell phone, clothes, anything? And she's like, nope. And I was like, okay.

So my parents ended up showing up three or four hours later. That was Sunday. So the next day I woke up and I was ready to watch football. I was checking my fantasy football team, and they said, well, it's Monday. I was like, I missed Sunday?

So pretty much from Saturday night till Sunday I really don't remember anything.

Q. Just to make sure, do you have a titanium plate back there??

J.B. HOLMES: Yeah, there is a small titanium plate where they took out some of the skull.

Q. How big is it??

J.B. HOLMES: I don't know. I think it's about like that.

Q. A golf ball??

J.B. HOLMES: Maybe a little less. But it's not completely solid. It's webbed. It's not just a metal plate.

Q. Did you say glue??

J.B. HOLMES: Well, when they first went in they used some type of -- it's not just -- it's some type of glue, adhesive that they have to go through a different layer back there to cover it up instead of stitching it. That's how they do it. Turns out I was allergic to it.

So I had a reaction and that was part of the problem. I had a lot of really bad headaches. I was trying to come off the steroids that they had me on, and it was mainly because they were saying because of the glue. That was probably the most painful part of it was some of the headaches when I was trying to get off the medicine after the surgeries.

Once I went back in there the second time, they didn't use the glue, and they stitched it up. I didn't have any problems since then.

Q. How much did it bother you during the year? Do you remember tournaments where the vertigo took over or affected you?

J.B. HOLMES: Yeah, it affected me a lot there. It cost me -- I ended up playing well at THE PLAYERS. I started since the second round I had it at THE PLAYERS. I played well there. I finished sixth. It probably cost me three or four shots. I was over a putt, and I almost felt like I was falling over. The next week I tried to play and I withdrew.

For the rest of the year it really bothered me. I had a couple of cuts and I hadn't missed the cut all year and then I missed three in a row. It was mainly because of that, being dizzy. I'd catch a shot really fat, and make one or two swings around and it cost me three or four shots. Just bad timing.

Q. Have there been any after effects as you've come back and played golf that you felt??

J.B. HOLMES: Well, I haven't got all my swing speed back yet, but a lot of this is just processing. When they went in between the muscles in my neck and getting the rotation in my muscles and not hitting, losing a lot of muscles just being able to not do anything for four months.

My swing is gradually coming. When I first started playing, I was hitting it like 240. So my swing speed starting out was like 106, 107. Now it's up to 115. I hit 118 yesterday. So it's coming back. I've just got to get out here and play a little bit, and it will get back to normal.

Q. Bubba Watson was in here, and granted he's no medical authority. But he was talking about something like you might have lost some muscle memory in terms of everything that you've learned through all these years of playing. Has there been any of that??

J.B. HOLMES: No, there hasn't been any of that. I mean, just not playing for four months, anybody that doesn't play for four months they're not going to have quite as good of control over the club head as if they were playing the whole year.

When I came back, my swing coach came down the first day I got cleared and he said my swing looked fine. It was on point and everything. So my body didn't forget what it's been learning for the last 28 years. So it didn't go away like that.

Just little things that impact the positioning and control of the club face. That just comes along with being able to play more and just getting out there. So it's just like being out of practice basically.

Q. Normal swing speed??

J.B. HOLMES: I think last year I averaged around 120, I could get it up to 125 if I wanted to. So right now I'm averaging about 115. If I go at it, I can get to 118.

Q. When did you hit that first 240 driver??

J.B. HOLMES: December 1st, I think around then is when I was starting to hit them. So I had to slowly get into it and not overdo it at the beginning. When you've been sitting out that long you really want to go out and play a lot. But hitting it 240 playing a round of golf wasn't much fun.

So just practicing, and slowly getting back into it and trying to build up the muscles and get the rotation back in my neck, and just trying to get back out there.

Q. I read where you still have the chunk of skull??

J.B. HOLMES: Uh?huh.

Q. Where and why do you have it, and how did this change you? How has this whole thing changed you?

J.B. HOLMES: I've got it at home. I've got it in my closet. I see it every day. It's just a reminder that I'm very fortunate to be able to go through something like that and be able to come back and play. Just very fortunate to have this job and be able to play a game for a living.

When you go through a big surgery like that. And I never really thought I wasn't going to come back, but there is always a possibility that everything doesn't go right and I don't get back out here.

So just learning to appreciate the situation I'm in a little bit more and just enjoy it.

Q. During the time when you couldn't play, when you went back in the second time you were air lifted to another hospital??

J.B. HOLMES: Yeah, I was air lifted to Baltimore. I had my surgery at Johns Hopkins.

Q. So it was that serious??

J.B. HOLMES: Yeah, he just didn't want to take any chances. Any time you're vomiting and with the brain surgery and you have fluid on there and everything else, my girlfriend's a nurse. She was worried. She sees stuff like that more often than most people. So it just wasn't worth the risk than to just go ahead and make sure everything's okay.

Q. During the time that you couldn't play, how did you spend your time, and how difficult was it??

J.B. HOLMES: In some sense it was a little bit nice to be able to get away from the game a little bit and then after a while you really wanted to come back and play. I spent a lot of time with my family and friends. Just getting to see them more. When you're traveling so much, you don't get to see your family and stuff. So just staying at home.

A lot of it was recovery process, so I was trying to get stronger and just get rotation back in my neck and everything. It's just a long process. The surgery feels like it was so long ago that I had already forgotten about some of it. It just feels like it was so long ago. I'm passed that. I'm ready to start a new chapter.

Q. How big was the chunk of skull? Maybe I missed this?

J.B. HOLMES: It was about like that.

Q. Core of a golf ball??

J.B. HOLMES: Yeah, about a quarter. Little bit bigger than the quarter.

Q. Can you give us details on the closet? I'm trying to picture it in the closet?

J.B. HOLMES: I have a closet and there is a window. And it's sitting there on the window.

Q. Just on the ledge??

J.B. HOLMES: On the ledge of the window.

Q. Like a little trophy case??

J.B. HOLMES: Not a little trophy case. It's not really a souvenir. But just I just see it. I asked the guy if I could have it because I grew it, so I figured I may as well keep it (laughing).

Q. Where's the house??

J.B. HOLMES: It's in Florida, in Isleworth.

Q. What kind of scar did it leave? Can you show it to us?

J.B. HOLMES: I can show it to you if you want to see it. Can you see it?

Q. Vertical??

J.B. HOLMES: Yeah. So I've always got that to remember.

MARK STEVENS: Did they have to shave your head?

J.B. HOLMES: Yeah, they actually didn't take much. They just took a strip, and a couple days after the surgery, if you pulled my hair, you couldn't even see it.

Q. Your girlfriend's name??

J.B. HOLMES: Erica Kalbhin.

Q. When had you the surgery, were you out? I know some brain surgeries, they can't put you to sleep.

J.B. HOLMES: Yeah, this one wasn't like that. I think those surgeries they're actually fixing a part of the brain or something and they have to touch it and ask you questions and stuff. I was out. Thank goodness I was out.

No, they put me out both times pretty quick. I made it into the surgery room once, and the other time I didn't.

Q. How long did it last??

J.B. HOLMES: It was only about an hour and a half. It wasn't a long surgery.

Q. If you don't mind me saying, you almost make this sound like outpatient surgery sometimes.

J.B. HOLMES: Well, like I said, I went home pretty quick after. I didn't have to -- a week later I went home. I was out of the hospital after three or four days. The second time I was out of the hospital two days after and back home.

So I try to build it up in my mind -- you don't want to build it up too big and really dwell on it. So I did the best I could not to worry about it much, and just kind of went with it as we go.

But it was frustrating. It was painful, it was scary. Like I said, to me, it feels like it was so long ago that I've been working, and I'm ready to put that behind me and get going.

Q. I'm just curious. You mentioned the hospital gown moment. But as you talk about it later, does that almost make it sound more daunting than what was actually going through your head at the time??

J.B. HOLMES: Yeah, if I really set down and just really think about it, yeah. It was extremely scary. Luckily, I didn't dwell on it like the whole thing. I didn't study up on it and read everything about the surgery and see what could go wrong. I just assumed like, hey, I've had knee surgeries before, and it wasn't like the first time I've been put under.

I've got to go get surgery, let's get it done. Do what I got to do to get back out here. So it was never really crossed my mind that I wasn't coming back out or I wasn't ever going to get to play again.

So I just took that approach as, hey, I've got to get this done to get back out there, so let's get it done and do it the right way. Find the best guy to do it, and just go on from there. That's just kind of how I approached it the whole time.

If you really sit there and dwell on it, yeah, it can be really scary and really bother you. I tried to not let myself go there.

Q. What's been the reaction of the guys now that you're back out here this week? What would make this week a success? Just competing?

J.B. HOLMES: Well, the guys have been great. Everybody's been coming over and shaking my hand and saying glad to have you back. Are you feeling better? So it's been great to be able to get back out here and get back out to doing what I love. So far it's just getting out here and getting back into the competitive golf.

The first goal is to make the cut, the second goal is to win the tournament. It's always, when I come out, that's my goal. But realistic expectations. If I come out here and make the cut and just play solid, that's probably a pretty good start back.

Q. Anyone make fun of you in a nice way??

J.B. HOLMES: No, not yet. They ease in the first week, I'm sure they'll come next week (laughing).

Q. You just played with Bubba. Did he have any comments on your length??

J.B. HOLMES: Oh, no, no. Like I said, my swing speed's not bad, but I'm still hitting it over 30 yards. It's not what I'm used to, but it's far enough to be able to get out here and play.

Q. With your length off the tee, it would almost be natural for you to be a winner here like Bubba was. Do you like these courses? I mean, you've played decent here. Not won, of course.

J.B. HOLMES: Yeah, I like these courses. I like Torrey. I really like the West Coast Swing. This is a good start. I usually start here every year. The last few years I have. So it's a great course to start on, and I enjoy it.

My first one back for a few months, so I'm just taking it one step at a time, and hopefully I'll have a good week.

Q. Where was the first surgery??

J.B. HOLMES: Both of them were in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins.

Q. Just to make sure, where did you get air lifted??

J.B. HOLMES: Baltimore from Campbellsville. I was actually home helping my club with a tournament, and about 3:00 that day I didn't feel good. I said I'm going to go home. I went home and laid down, and we were getting ready to go out and have dinner or whatever, and I said I don't feel good. Then I got sick, and we were in the hospital.

Then the next day I think it was around 2:00 or 3:00, they air lifted me to Baltimore. Then I guess I realized where I was about 8:00.

Q. They have an airport at Campbellsville??

J.B. HOLMES: Oh, yeah. Huge airport.

Q. Just to make sure, are there any restrictions on what you can eat now or things that you cannot do??

J.B. HOLMES: No, well, just kind of in the trailer, if I go to the car, I can't get a fast crack on my neck or anything like that. Other than that, I can pretty much do whatever and swing as much as I want and work out. I can do pretty much everything right now.

Q. Did you fish??

J.B. HOLMES: Yeah, I can still fish. I fished a little bit.

Q. What did you fish for??

J.B. HOLMES: Bass. So I got a couple ponds out at the golf course.

Q. Any big ones??

J.B. HOLMES: Yeah, about an eight pounder out there. So there is some big bass out there. It was fun to be home and relax and do a few more things like that.

Q. If you talk with Erica about this, do you have maybe a sense that this was scarier for her because being a nurse she knew exactly everything? Whereas, you approached it as an athlete would a hard round.

J.B. HOLMES: Yeah, my mom used to be a nurse too. So both of them were -- any time someone you love is going into surgery like that you usually tend to -- when I'm out and not worrying about it, I'm on medicine and not remembering anything, they're really going through it and worrying.

But, yeah, the second surgery when I was sick and went to the E.R. and things, that scared everybody pretty good. Like I said, I don't even remember that day, so it wasn't as bad for me as it was for them.