It would be a great story if John Engler wound up as the qualifying medalist at the 2011 U.S. Mid-Amateur. Eight years ago, Engler was one of the hotshots in golf. He was a three-time All-American at Clemson and seemingly had a bright professional future. But upon returning home from a hunting expedition at his parents' Georgia farm, he was involved in a horrific automobile accident. The Augusta, Ga., native was badly injured and doctors thought he would permanently walk with a limp. His golf career appeared over.
Engler, however, made a remarkable recovery and played two seasons on the Nationwide Tour before eventually having to give it up. While his injuries had healed, Engler could not play in more than a couple of tournaments a month due to fatigue.
Last year, he regained his amateur status and began to discover the joys of playing competitive golf once again. He qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur and reached the round of 32 before losing a tough match to eventual champion Nathan Smith.
This year, Engler qualified for the U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills (missed match-play cut) and this week's U.S. Mid-Amateur at Shadow Hawk Golf Club in Richmond, Texas.
"My physical therapist, Lonnie Hergott, in Augusta, Ga., has been great," said Engler after carding a 1-under 71 at The Houstonian Golf and Country Club on Sunday, the companion stroke-play qualifying course for the Mid-Amateur. "He’s helped me a lot. A girl by the name of Andrea Murray at our club (Augusta Country Club) has done a great job. I’ve worked out a lot and stayed in great shape. I feel great body-wise over the last six weeks, I’ve prepared to be able to play match play and play 36 holes if I need to."
Right now, Engler is the clubhouse leader for medalist at 5-under 139. Michael McCaffrey, a 41-year-old reinstated amateur from League City, Texas, is at six under par overall with seven holes to play at The Houstonian on Monday morning.
Nevertheless, Engler will be among the 64 match-play qualifiers and could produce quite a story this week in Texas.