Tumor Removal Leads to Career Change to Become PGA Pro
In July 2007, Joel Young heard from a doctor he had an acoustic neuroma wrapped around his auditory nerve, the nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain. Within weeks of hearing that news, House Clinic physician Dr. Derald Brackmann surgically removed the acoustic neuroma.
A little more than two years later, Joel, a former stock broker, spent three months in Hong Kong working as an instructor at Mission Hills Golf Club, the largest golf complex in the world.
At a check-up with Dr. Brackmann in September 2009, Joel said, “If you had told me two years ago that I would be making a complete career change to become a PGA Pro, I would have said you were crazy.”
During the surgery, Joel’s facial, auditory and balance nerves were cut in order to completely remove the tumor. After the surgery, Joel had facial paralysis on one side of his face, had lost his hearing in one ear and had to learn to walk again.
Joel quickly realized surfing was out of the question because of the problems with his balance. But, he had played golf in high school and happened to live right next to a golf course.
“When the surgery was over and I had to learn to walk again, I thought hitting some balls at the driving range would help with the balance issues I was having,” said Joel. “But when I went out there the first time it was as though I could feel everything so much better, even a small pebble under my shoe was noticeable. It was as though I had super natural strength.”
Amazed at how well he was hitting the ball, Joel continued to go out to the golf course to improve his balance and his golf game. When he was consistently shooting in the low 70’s, he started to think his high school dream of being a PGA Pro might be possible.
“This would never have happened if I did not have a tumor,” said Joel. He may actually be right.
According to Dr. Brackmann, cutting the balance nerve actually created stability for Joel because the tumor was causing an imbalance while it was in his head. Now, the balance nerve on the other side of his head compensates for the balance nerve that was cut. The increased stability allows Joel to hit the ball better.
For the PGA Qualifier, Joel used the same golf clubs he used when he was in high school and captain of the golf team. He shot one under the cut off, 150 for 36 holes, which secured his ticket to attend the accelerated school at the PGA of America Education Center in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Joel graduated from the 8-week accelerated program in March, 2009. With no experience working at a golf course, finding a job at a golf course to earn the apprentice hours to move to the next step for PGA certification proved challenging but not impossible.
Joel is working part-time at a golf course near his home in Murphys, California.
Dr. Brackmann cautions that cutting the balance nerve is not an option for people looking to improve their golf game.