North Texas Daily

Women’s golf’s Edwards braced for greatness after recovering from wrist injury

Women’s golf’s Edwards braced for greatness after recovering from wrist injury

March 24
09:44 2016

Austin Jackson | Staff Writer


With her wrist in a brace while she vibes to a Bryson Tiller beat, sophomore Devin Edwards begins emptying her bucket full of golf balls with teammates and bulldozers as they do work at Maridoe Golf Club’s practice facility.

As Edwards sets up, the clanks and grumbles of construction harsh her mellow. Anxiety rising, she stifles any doubts that may exist and rotates back until her surgically repaired wrist is set motionless high above her head.

Like the muddy hills of the future home of North Texas golf, Devin Edwards’ golf game is a work in progress. After the Conference USA championship last April, Edwards decided to undergo surgery on her left wrist.

327 days later at the BYU Entrada Classic, Edwards finally completed her arduous journey back to NCAA tournament play.

“This was a big step,” Edwards said. “It was really exciting and really nerve-wracking. I know my game isn’t there yet, but I needed to get that my first tournament under my belt before I can get better for the next one.”

Since the age of four, Edwards has played golf with youthful exuberance, punishing drives and attacking pins on her path towards NCAA golf.

But that changed at a regional U.S. Open qualifier in 2014. Early in the round, her ball burrowed deep in a bunker, leaving the ball barely peeking from beneath the sand.  Though the “fried egg lie” was not ideal, Edwards said she had executed similar shots thousands of times before.

But as she plowed her sand-wedge through the bunker, splashing sand and ball upon the green, her left wrist declared mutiny.

“My wrist just gave out,” Edwards said. “I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t want to quit.”

Devin’s part-time caddy, who is also her full-time dad, noticed the swell of his daughter’s ballooning wrist and, after much debate, convinced her to withdraw from the tournament and immediately see a doctor for an X-Ray.

“[The doctor] told me to take a few months off,” Edwards said. “But I was about to go play college golf. I was like,  ‘There’s no way I can just stop golfing.’”

Sophomore golfer Devin Edwards poses for a photo. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

Sophomore golfer Devin Edwards poses for a photo. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

Edwards’ stubborn hatred for quitting left her managing symptoms for over a year while continuing to play. When the pain became unbearable, she would self-medicate with Advil and ice her wrist to reduce swelling.

North Texas interim head coach Barry Niemann said even while battling injury as a freshman, Edwards was still one of the best players on the team. Devin finished the 2014-2015 season averaging just over 78 strokes per round – the team’s third-best scoring average.

But despite her toughness, Edwards’ wrist only got worse with the increased demands of college golf.

“She struggled with it a lot last year and through the summer,” Niemann said. “She tried all kinds of physical therapy.”

She sat out the fall 2015 semester to let the wrist heal, but when she returned last spring, she took on too much too fast. After the C-USA championship, her wrist pain appeared to be a fact of life.

Edwards made an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in wrist injuries, and after an MRI, she was informed the state of her tendons made surgery inevitable.

The doctor could not guarantee Edwards would ever be able to fully return to golf, but Edwards said her surgeon was confident the minimally invasive procedure was the best and only option if she wanted to keep playing.

“It was terrifying,” Edwards said, “but it was really my last shot.”

Devin underwent surgery on Sept. 25, 2015 and was left with a half-inch scar along the base of her left thumb, severing the tendon and clearing out torn tissue. For two months, her left hand and wrist were left immobile in a hard cast.

Eventually the cast came off, and after a few months of physical therapy, she was given clearance to try golfing again. In early January, Edwards held a golf club for the first time in four months. Edwards said 16 years of muscle memory melted away during that time, and the disconnect between her mind and body was mortifying.

But she was not alone through the recovery process. Edwards said she was comforted by the constant supervision of long-time swing coach Peter Murphy, who has worked with her since she was nine years old.

This time, instead of perfecting her swing, he was tasked with starting over and rebuilding Devin’s game from the ground up. Murphy said although Devin was scared and frustrated, the limitations of her wrist forced her to refine her fundamentals.

“She got to work on her technique a little bit more at a slower pace with specific short shots,” Murphy said. “This helped her not worry so much about the power aspect and fine-tune her mechanics.”

Murphy said Devin was a natural swinger with exceptional power, especially considering her petite frame. He said while not being necessarily strong, Devin’s ability to create swing speed lies in her flexibility, torqueing the club at extreme angles as she loads into her downswing.

After he took the training wheels off, Murphy said Devin’s swing has not only recovered, but improved as well, increasing her average driving distance from 240 to nearly 260 yards. He said her redesigned swing now creates topspin, resulting in more fairway roll.

“My technique is at its peak now,” Edwards said. “I’m actually hitting the ball a little further. I just need to work on my course management and not getting exhausted on the course.”

Niemann said he believes she will be playing at a high level soon. While hopeful she can put together a solid tournament next week at the SMU Invitational in Dallas, he’s confident she’ll be back firing on all cylinders by the C-USA championship April 18 – 20.

“She’s a tough little cookie, and she’s just so competitive,” Niemann said. “I’d be shocked if she doesn’t do well.”

Edwards said she’s a different player than the freshman who took the course last year, crediting the surgery and the long journey back for making her a more nuanced player.

“Standing back, the surgery has been a little blessing in disguise,” Edwards said. “It’s helped me appreciate each little achievement. The biggest one is I’m able to play golf again, and I’m in little to no pain. There’s always something positive and there’s always something new to take away, no matter how I play.”

Featured Image: Sophomore Devin Edwards follows her ball after a swing during practice. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

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