Engler returns as amateur after car accident

John Engler Jr., who qualified for the PGA Tour five years ago after being severely injured in a car accident, has begun competing as a reinstated amateur.

Engler, 31, of Augusta, Ga., tied for 25th last week at the Azalea Invitational, which Tyson Alexander won for a second year in a row. Engler closed with 68 at the Country Club of Charleston to finish at 7-over 291. Engler shot 70-74-79 in the first three rounds.

“I missed the competition,” said Engler, a former Clemson All-American who won the 1997 Azalea and works as a construction project and property manager.

“He went through hell with that leg,” said PGA Tour player D.J. Trahan, a former Clemson teammate. “In a certain sense, you’d say he’s happy to be alive, but I know it was a struggle for him.”

March 23 marked the seven-year anniversary of a head-on collision that killed two people in another vehicle and severely injured Engler’s right foot.

“There’s as much closure as there can be,” said Engler, who was not charged in the incident.

Six surgeries were required to repair Engler’s ankle. He had surgery in 2007 to remove a plate and screws from the ankle. Engler also had a severe staph infection, which occasionally recurs, he said.

He earned a PGA Tour card at the 2005 Q-School and finished 222nd on the next year’s money list. Engler said the ’07 Georgia Open was his last event as a professional. His injured leg was unable to withstand the strain of weekly competition as a professional.

“It was mentally draining, not being able to play competitively on a Tour level,” Engler said, “but I love the game of golf.”

He said he plans to play about one event a month, and will attempt to qualify for U.S. Golf Association and Georgia State Golf Association events.

“I need some time to recover after I play a lot of golf,” he said, “especially if I’m walking.”

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