Article by: Meghan Mitchell
(February 2, 2023) – If you were to tell me summer of 2021 that in a year I would win my second Connecticut Women’s Amateur title, I wouldn’t have believed you.
In the spring of 2021, I returned home from my sophomore year of college playing golf at Appalachian State. Towards the end of the season, and upon my return home to Connecticut I was experiencing a lot of discomfort in my back. I had sharp shooting pain, muscle spasms, and complete tightness. I knew something was wrong.
57th Connecticut Women’s Amateur Results
Upon seeing my family doctor, she expressed a lot of concern such as disk issues and even a possible fracture. I set up an appointment shortly after with a back doctor and he ordered an MRI.
The results were surprising, I learned that my L3 and L4 disks were bulging and could herniate if I didn’t do something. I was told that I would have to do intense physical therapy and stop golfing for around three weeks. Three weeks turned into six weeks, and even though I felt I was getting stronger, I was still having a hard time hitting a ball for more than 20 minutes. I went back to the doctor, and he suggested epidural injections, however I opted out of injections and to continue with physical therapy.
I returned to Boone, North Carolina in the fall of 2021 for the start of my junior year. My plan was to take it slow and compete. It didn’t take long before I realized, I wasn’t ready. I went to our local range alone and couldn’t get through half of my large bucket. The sharp shooting pain was back. I was utterly confused. Shouldn’t I feel better after all these months in physical therapy?
My athletic trainer at App State wanted me to get another opinion. I saw another doctor in Boone, who mentioned that he noticed facet joint impingement. This meant, that through my many years of playing golf, the muscle between my joints designed for rotation were withering away.
Shortly after, I was on a flight home back to Connecticut to meet with Jason Gromelski of Nola Physical Therapy. In our first session, he stretched and twisted me like a pretzel. None of the stretching was giving me that sharp pain I was experiencing, and this is when he told me my bulging disks weren’t the problem, it was the facet joints. He also mentioned that the physical therapy I had been doing all summer made this issue worse.
You can’t put into words how frustrating all of this was to hear. All that hard work and time throughout the summer to get back by the fall was wasted, as well as an entire fall golf season trying to figure out what was wrong. Although it was all frustrating, I was glad I finally had answers.
I returned to Connecticut for winter break and worked with Jason multiple times a week. By the end of the break, the sharp shooting pain went away in the middle of my back swing. Although tightness and discomfort still existed, I knew I was strong enough to play through it.
Finally, in the spring of 2022 although it was difficult I returned to competition. This season of golf was by far the hardest in my life. Not only was I having a hard time physically, I struggled mentally. I had a hard time trusting my back while standing over the ball. It made me question myself as a golfer and if I would ever get back to the player I used to be.
At the start of summer 2022, I took a few weeks off, which was great for me mentally, however my back without physical therapy or golf tightened up. I pulled out of the Connecticut Women’s Open and started physical therapy again. As my back loosened, I started getting back into the swing of things. I played evening golf at the Country Club of New Canaan with friends almost every night. Through this period of time, I made it a priority to fall back in love with golf again.
Soon enough, it was July, and the Connecticut Women’s Amateur was right around the corner. I was apprehensive about the tournament. My swing coach and mother, Roxanne, told me to go out there with my dad and just enjoy it and to not set any sort of expectations for myself. Little did I know that that was the best possible thing I could have heard before heading into the first round.
That first round at Tashua Knolls Golf Course was so much fun. I wasn’t stressed, I was just happy to be out there with my dad Steve on the bag. I was striking the ball well, but I had no idea where I stood, it wasn’t even a thought that I could be leading. After walking off 18, I looked over at my dad smiling and he claimed he knew by the 15th hole.
Going into day two was nerve-wracking. When I won in 2019, I came from four strokes behind, where this year I was leading by only a few. It was harder mentally, but I focused on one shot at a time. My dad did a great job of easing the tension crawling through my body. It was a relief to finally finish that last 18 holes and get it done.
Through this entire experience, I have learned so much about myself and what resilience truly means!
About the Connecticut State Golf Association
The Connecticut State Golf Association functions as an extension of the USGA and provides stewardship for amateur golf in Connecticut. Founded in 1899, it is the country’s oldest state golf association and conducts over 60 Championships, Qualifiers, and One Day Tournaments throughout the year.