For the first time in a long time people are talking about my golf game. What a relief. For two years it seems all everyone has wanted to ask me about is the bullet I took in the neck back in July 1994, on the night after the second round of the Youngstown-Warren ( Ohio) Classic.
That bullet was a stray, fired by a man more than a mile away. It slammed into my neck as I was walking into a drugstore on my way to buy baby oil to keep my milled putter from rusting. I didn't know what hit me. The 9-mm bullet (about the size of your thumb) entered my neck on the left side, barely missing a major artery, and became lodged beside a carotid artery, which carries blood to the head. Doctors feared they might rupture the artery if they attempted to remove the bullet, so they left it there.
Although I could feel the bullet pressing against my esophagus, I played the week after the accident, coming in 10th at the Jamie Fair Toledo Classic, which up to that point was my best finish that season. After that, though, I really struggled with the pain. When the weather was cold, I felt as if a knife were digging into me. Also, I had nightmares and suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder.
I was at a tournament in Seattle in 1995 when I woke up one morning with a swollen and puffy neck. I went to the fitness van. They wouldn't touch it, so I went to the hospital. The doctors thought the bullet might have moved or become infected, but I played the tournament anyway. After all, that was my job, and you have to do your job.
When I returned home to Nashville, the doctors said the bullet should come out. From the X-rays they could see that it had moved—probably because of all the torquing of the neck during the golf swing—and they thought it might continue moving. That October, I finally had surgery to remove the bullet. After the operation I woke up and immediately felt better. I didn't realize how much range of motion I had lost. More than anything, though, my mental game improved. Because I had felt the bullet every waking minute, I had constantly worried about it. I still think about it, but not so much.
I guess I can understand why more people are interested in my accident than in my golf. Last year I was only 99th on the LPGA money list, and this season I didn't finish in the top 25 in an event until the U.S. Women's Open, in which I was 19th. Recently, though, my game has improved. I've placed in the top five three times in the last two months and rank 57th in earnings. I've never finished higher. Maybe now I'll be recognized for something other than being the golfer who was shot in the neck.