Frankie Schappell wins PGA Tour’s comeback of the year award

Tiger Woods at least briefly stole the show with his sweeping 60 on Friday but the golf world never took a better look at Frankie Schappell. Less than two months before Schappell learned that…

Frankie Schappell wins PGA Tour’s comeback of the year award

Tiger Woods at least briefly stole the show with his sweeping 60 on Friday but the golf world never took a better look at Frankie Schappell. Less than two months before Schappell learned that he had been diagnosed with a form of kidney cancer, he endured a triple-bogey after a bunker shot blew through a fairway bunker. While most players were throwing up on the approach to the next hole, Schappell showed composure beyond his years.

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A video of the confrontation was uploaded on YouTube, and the 37-year-old was thrilled with his round, finishing joint 27th at the Arizona Open with a five-under 66. “It was the most mental half I’ve ever played,” Schappell told azcentral.com. “I can’t explain it. My nerves were flying as hot as they’ve ever been. I walked into that [man-made] lake out there, so I went immediately to the clubhouse. The only shot I missed was on the second hole. From there, I just kept it simple.”

Since then Schappell has been boosted by another positive test: he found his old winnings on the PGA Tour were still, after a ten-year hiatus, worth US$53,049. He lost the financial windfall in 2001 due to a rule change that had seen regular winners’ cheques capped at US$1m. Schappell has won once on the Tour and is believed to have earned more than $8m in career earnings, but he has not sat on that money. He has taken out loans against them to keep his career going, and when he entered a tournament last week to secure his Tour card for next season, he slept with his mortgage on his head in case it all failed.

The National golf writer Jeff Risdon described Schappell as the “Rain Man of golf”. The 41-year-old taught himself how to play as a youngster after a diving accident in Iowa in 1999 left him with no left arm and severely impaired vision. “I had to play with tweezers on my left hand,” he told AZCentral.com. “I had to actually do that and make mistakes. I had to take shots that [players who have] played 25 years of golf have to take shots.”

Schappell has never finished higher than 218th on the US Tour. He lives with his parents in Texas and practises daily in the hope of playing in a major tournament for the first time in his career. That moment may be tantalisingly close. With the Open coming to St Andrews in July, Schappell has the perfect opportunity.

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