A Good Walk Unspoiled

Sept. 26, 2010

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

The “Mulligan” is a shot unique to golf.

It’s basically a do-over, obviously, a shot not listed in the sport’s official rules. It’s kind of an informal, ‘What the heck?’ reserved solely for friendly games.

Georgia Tech senior Kyle Scott will probably feel more free to grant an opponent a mulligan than most. That’s because the recently-turned 24-old had the good fortune to get a mulligan that changed not only his outlook on golf, but on life.

“If I shoot an 80 today, it’s not the end of the world,” said the Johannesburg, South Africa, native. “I’m going to go to bed and the sun’s going to come up tomorrow and I can do it all over again.”

Scott hopes he can do in the final two rounds today and Tuesday, what he did on Sunday, when he shot a team-best two-over, 74, and went to bed with a share of eighth place following the first round of the Ping/Golfweek Preview Invitational at the Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla. Scott is tied with junior James White, while Georgia Tech is tied for third at +10, one shot out of second and 10 off the lead, held by host Oklahoma State).

What turned Scott, a kid who was admittedly “very hot-tempered, I used to throw clubs, just really lived and died for every golf shot,” around was the perspective he got nearly six years ago, when he was faced with losing the ability to play the sport and nearly much more.

The 18-year-old Scott and a friend were messing around in a golf cart on a wet course, when the cart flipped, landing on top of him. He suffered what doctors diagnosed as a mild break of the back, slipped two disks and tore the cartilage completely off his pelvis. It took two surgeries and wearing a back brace for almost four months to repair the damage.

He calls the incident and ensuing recovery “a blessing in disguise.”

“I couldn’t play any golf in that time. I just chipped and putted around,” said Scott, who, at the time, had been recruited by the University of West Florida. “It was really frustrating, but it opened my eyes to the game, gave me a new light on it. It’s a gift for me to play golf now.

“I was excited when I came back,” he continued. “From that time I’ve just looked at golf a little differently.”

In a classy gesture, West Florida’s coach, Steve Fell, did not rescind the school’s scholarship offer and welcomed Scott to Pensacola.

The student-athlete who came over was still an intense competitor, with great skill, who loved to play the game. He just played it a little differently.

“I had to, I wouldn’t say `rebuild’ my swing, but I had to try to figure out a way to get around the back pain for a while,” Scott recalled. “Just learning new techniques in the golf swing and stuff. I suppose that was probably the hardest thing for me.”

Scott played two years at West Florida and was a two-time D-II All-American for the Argos, leading them to the D-II team championship as a freshman (he finished third), before transferring to Georgia Tech.

While Scott still suffers some back pain — it was enough to force him to withdraw from the Wolfpack Intercollegiate, as well as the final round of the Linger Longer Tournament last year — he is happy with the course he is on and the route he’s taken to get here.

“I believe everything happens for a reason,” he said. “I’m at Georgia Tech now and I can’t be unhappy about that. It’s a great school, a great program.”

Scott would ideally like to make Georgia Tech a championship program this year.

“I’m pretty excited about [my senior year],” he said. “I’m pretty shocked that this is my last year of college golf. It’s gone by quickly. I’m happy that we have a good team going forward this year. I’m just excited for the year.

“You always want the team to do well,” he continued. “Coming off a strong finish last year, we would just like to build on that. If we can get just a little bit better than we were last year we have a good chance of winning nationals this year, which is really exciting.”

Having met and spent time with pros and Georgia Tech alumni Stuart Cink and Matt Kuchar has provided further inspiration for Scott, who would like to follow them onto The PGA Tour.

“It’s a good thing to know that where those guys are, they came from the same place where we’re coming from,” he said. “It’s real motivation for us. It’s like if they can do it, why can’t we do it? We probably have the same resources, if not better now. So it’s just really nice to know that it can be done.”

Considering where Scott has come from, just about anything can be done. He even unashamedly admitted that he’s still got some of that youthful mischief in him.

“I still get frustrated,” he said, adding with a laugh, “I try not to throw clubs as much as I used to, but there is still the occasion where you’ve got to throw one.”

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