SNOQUALMIE – Rick Fehr has returned home.
Fehr, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour and one of the greatest golfers in Seattle history, is commuting from his parents’ house in North Seattle while playing in the Boeing Classic at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge, which begins Friday.
This event on the 50-and-older Champions Tour had been marked on Fehr’s mental calendar for some time, but after herniating two disks in his back in January, he’s happy just to be playing anywhere.
“I worked a little too hard for an old man in the offseason because I was determined to play well and so I overworked it I think, but stuff happens,” said Fehr, 50, who graduated from Nathan Hale in 1980 and lives outside Phoenix. “The first step is excruciating pain. It’s been a journey. I had a series of three cortisone injections, which didn’t help.”
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Fehr’s physical therapist and orthopedist recommended surgery. Two respected surgeons said no. Finally in May, restless that he was wasting away the Champions Tour season, he told one of the surgeons he needed to get to work and asked him what he would do.
“He said, ‘If it was me, I’d start hitting some balls and see what happens and kind of work into it slowly. Because if you reinjure it or aggravate it, the surgery’s the same, and then we’ll do the surgery,’ ” Fehr said.
It turned out to be good advice. Despite lingering tightness in his hip and right leg, Fehr’s health has improved while playing golf, although he admits he returned too soon to the Champions Tour when he played in the Encompass Championship from June 21-23 outside Chicago and finished last among 81 players.
“It got worse as the week went on and I should have withdrawn, but I kept playing,” Fehr said. “It was pretty embarrassing and humiliating to play that poorly but I needed to go through that process. It is getting better, but I am certainly not 100 percent.”
That didn’t stop Fehr from having by far his best Champions Tour event last week in Endicott, N.Y. Through two rounds, he was tied for fourth and finished tied for 16th. (His best previous finish this year was a tie for 73rd and his best finish in four events last year was a tie for 35th.)
“It ended on a very sour note because you never want to fall back on Sunday, but it was a huge, huge step forward from where I had been, so it was encouraging,” Fehr said. “I’ve putted well. It’s always something I’ve done well and the good news is that’s something that hasn’t left in my old age.”
Fehr said it was the first time he’d been in contention in many years. After almost two decades on the PGA Tour, Fehr quit playing professionally in 2003 to become director of golf at Trilogy Golf Course at Redmond Ridge. Fehr, who has three sons with his wife, Terri, later worked as a sports agent, representing several athletes, including 2009 Boeing Classic champion Loren Roberts.
For about a six-year stretch before deciding to give the Champions Tour a shot, he was playing about once a month.
“It was a long way back,” he said.
While joking that there won’t be many people in Las Vegas betting on him this week, Fehr said he’s capable of winning. If he gets into the hunt, he said he can draw upon the experience of his two PGA Tour wins and nine runner-up finishes.
“If I swing the golf club like I did early last week and stay in that rhythm, then absolutely I am capable of winning,” he said. “I know what it feels like to be in contention. I’ve been in the thick of it enough in my career that if that happens on Saturday and Sunday, it’s not foreign land to me and hopefully at that point I am confident in the way I am swinging the golf club and hitting it well.”
And if that’s going to happen, this is where he would like it to be.
“I’d much rather win here than almost anywhere else,” Fehr said. “I would absolutely love to win my hometown event – and I still consider Seattle my hometown.”
The team of Steve Benjamin, Andrea Brantner, Peter Chang, and Steve Mason won the 36-hole Korean Air Pro-Am with net total of 109 (35-under par). Mike Dunlap won the Roger Lindeman Cup, a special competition for Pro-Am players 65 years of age or older.
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