J.B Holmes received two brain surgeries in 2011. He called them both “low-risk,” but outside of the actual procedures themselves, they presented potentially massive consequences to his career.
The first was to fix structural defects in the cerebellum known as Chiari malformations, which required removing a small portion of his skull. The second one was to deal with his allergic reaction to the adhesive used in the first procedure.
According to Golf.com, side effects included vertigo, headaches and vomiting. The second procedure required an airlift from his home in Kentucky to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
“They had me on so much painkillers I didn’t remember much,” he said in 2017 to Golf.com. “I started out in Campbellsville and woke up in Baltimore. I remember vaguely getting on the plane and getting off.”
Prior to these procedures, he had notched two PGA Tour wins at the 2006 and 2008 FBR Opens. He also competed on the 2008 Ryder Cup champion team. While the recovery process from the surgery was only about three months initially, he ran into other health issues.
According to another Golf.com article, he injured his elbow after overexerting during his recovery and rolled an ankle during rollerblading.
“It was one medical event after another,” he said, “but at the same time, I enjoyed taking a year off and just getting on a good workout routine. There was a lot of rehab involved. At one point, I was going to rehab at three different places a day in Orlando. But at least I got to take vacations with family and friends.”
Holmes Started to Recover from Poor Play in 2014
By the time he started returning to tournaments in 2012, he wasn’t nearly the same player. By 2014, he was ranked No. 242 in the world. According to Yahoo Sports, an upset win at the Wells Fargo Championship that year finally turned things around.
Holmes dialed up his home run swing at Quail Hollow to lead the field in driving distance, and more importantly married it to uncanny short game recoveries. It was not unimportant that he got hot with that best friend of a winner, his putter.
His Saturday 66 gave him a one-stroke lead over Martin Flores. His Sunday 71 was just one stroke better than a charging Furyk, who keeps reminding us that, even though he turns 44 next week, he will grind you and grind you and grind you, the latest example being his Sunday 65. And even though Holmes had to sweat out a couple of bogeys on 16 and 18, he had done enough to put the hay in the barn.
Since then, he’s captured two more titles at the 2015 Shell Houston Open and the 2019 Genesis Open. He also made the Ryder Cup team again in 2016.
One of his bigger supporters has been his wife Erica. Coincidentally, she required three brain surgeries before she even met J.B., although she makes an important distinction between their respective procedures.
“She doesn’t call mine brain surgery,” he said to Golf.com. “With mine, they cut out a piece of skull and put a metal plate over it. She had brain surgery.”
He greatly benefitted from Erica’s medical knowledge, since she and his own mother were both nurses.
“If I really sat down and just think about it, yeah, it was extremely scary,” he said. “Luckily, I didn’t dwell on it. I didn’t study up on it and read everything about the surgery and see what could go wrong. I’ve got to go get surgery, let’s get it done. Do what I’ve got to do to get back out here.”
Now, he sits at the top of the leaderboard entering the third round at the British Open. He can continue his inspirational comeback from the depths of 2012-14 with his first major title.