Date: December 13, 2008
Author: Adam Lucius at Royal Sydney, Sportal

Stolz back in the swing of things

It was among the good time boys, sponsors and the desperates scrounging a buck on the nondescript Riverina pro-am circuit that Andre Stolz dared to dream about a comeback. It had been almost three years since he had handed in his US tour card, beaten by a debilitating wrist injury and forced into retirement at just 35. He bought his local driving range at Bateau Bay, played club cricket and settled into a busy family life with wife Cathy and four kids. He didn&apost pick up a club for two years. But the bug never fully dissipated. It could have been at Wagga Wagga or it might have been in Griffith but Stolz began hitting a ball again pain-free around April this year. The seeds of a comeback had been sewn. Eight months later Stolz sits second at the Australian Open after rounds of 69, 71 and 66 put him one stroke behind leader David Smail at 10 under at a windy Royal Sydney. If it sounds an unbelievable story, that&aposs because it is. Stolz takes up the tale. “I had a lot of problems with my wrist. Something happened there and I was having a lot of pain,” he recalled. “I couldn&apost hit balls because I was in that much pain.” “I had a few MRIs and the cartilage had worn away (due to) my swing.” “I was trying to have two weeks off then go out and play and then two weeks off and go out and play.” “It all snowballed and I got to the point where I thought &aposstuff it, I&aposm going to go home&apos.” “I&aposd be doing it a long time and got to the point where I could retire.” Not that walking away was easy. “The first six months after I stopped playing I was pretty devastated,” he admitted. “Every morning you get out of bed and you go and play golf and work on your game and all of sudden I wasn&apost doing that.” Vandals and the government&aposs small business red tape sapped Stolz&aposs enthusiasm for the driving range and he sold up after a year and turned to coaching. It was while taking trainee pros – brothers Steve and Grant Binns – on the pro-am circuit earlier this year that the urge to return started. “One day I picked up the club and I thought &aposI wonder (if it will hurt) if I swing the club really short and try and chip it down the fairway&apos,” he said. “The second game back I shot 10 under around my home course at Gosford.” Fast forward to the end of the year and the likeable Stolz is within touching distance of one of the more remarkable victories in Australian Open history. An eight-birdie six-under round on Saturday has made the impossible possible. Everyone is surprised with the notable exception of Stolz, who was forced to swallow his pride and ask for an invite into the Open. “I actually said to my wife I&aposd had thought about winning it. The thought just popped into my head,” he smiled. “I don&apost really care anymore. I try my guts outs. I&aposm just enjoying it.” “I just feel it&aposs a bonus to be back out playing after so many years.” “I&aposm just happy playing golf again.”