Safeway Open: Bo Van Pelt on the comeback trail

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Safeway Open: Bo Van Pelt on the comeback trail

PGA Tour

Safeway Open: Bo Van Pelt on the comeback trail

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NAPA, Calif. – Bo Van Pelt said he felt the jitters as he tried to make his first cut on the PGA Tour in 1,321 days.

“That part never changes,” said Van Pelt, who birdied the 16th hole on Friday to shoot 2-under 142 and make it on the number in his 399th career start.

SAFEWAY OPEN: ScoresTee times, TV info | Photos

Van Pelt, 44, teed it up this week at the Safeway Open for the first time since a missed cut at the 2016 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He’s been sidelined with a freak injury to his shoulder that required three separate surgeries.

“It was a real possibility that I was never going to play again because physically I couldn’t do it,” Van Pelt said.

Van Pelt was a steady performer on the Tour, winning the 2009 U.S. Bank One Championship in Milwaukee, and more than $20 million in earnings. But his playing career was derailed by a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

“I grabbed one of my kids’ backpacks in the backseat of my truck,” he said, “and it was about 20 pounds heavier than I thought, and right away I was like, ‘Hmm, I shouldn’t have done that.’ Yeah, about 85 percent of my labrum was shredded. That was it.”

Van Pelt endured two shoulder surgeries and neither improved his condition. The pain inevitably flared up again.

“As soon as I hit one shot that hurt, every shot after that got worse,” he said.

But if there was a blessing in disguise it gave Van Pelt the chance to be home and coach his kids and take them to practices.

“If you could look back and say if ever there was a good time, it was a good time, I guess, for me. I enjoyed every minute with my wife and kids, just being at home,” said Van Pelt, of his three children, daughter Olivia, a freshman at the University of Texas and a member of the Longhorn spirit squad, and sons Trace (16) and Crew (13). “You only get that time with your kids once. So, I didn’t really miss (the PGA Tour). There was no woe is me at all.”

Finally, a specialist diagnosed Van Pelt with thoracic outlet syndrome, a group of disorders that occur when blood vessels or nerves in the space between the collarbone and the first rib are compressed. According to the Mayo Clinic, this can cause pain the shoulders and neck and numbness in the fingers. In January, Van Pelt had his first rib on the right side removed, and this time the surgery relieved the pain.

“It was a Hail Mary,” he said. “In the three years up until the last couple months, it never even felt like I had a chance to come back out here. I never got close. I couldn’t hardly practice at all. I couldn’t play 18 holes. My arms hurt too much when I tried to play.”

And here he is making the cut in his return and shooting even par on Saturday. Van Pelt is playing on a one-time career-money list exemption. He didn’t even bother to take a rehab start on the Korn Ferry Tour.

“I was like, I’m either going to be ready or I’m not,” he said.

So far, Van Pelt looks to be ready.

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